This isn’t the first time I’ve written about smoking. The first time stirred a lot of opinion and both favourable and damning comments.
But this post isn’t about suggesting you quit.
As I write this, France has declared war. Nearly 150 Kenyan students are dead. Beirut’s suffered its worst terrorist attack in years. Illegal weapons are an enormous part of the equation.
What’s that got to do with smoking, you ask?
The sale of illegal tobacco funds criminal activities, including gun and drug trafficking. And while gang activity and organized crime here at home is clearly not making headlines the same way or having an international impact as crushing as terrorism, make no mistake that the situation is no less dire.
In Ontario alone, the illegal tobacco market is worth more than a shocking three billion — with a “B” — cigarettes a year! What’s head-shaking is that a third of the cigarettes purchased in Ontario are illegal, which is three times more than in the rest of Canada.
Huh? I really had no idea this was a thing. Much less such a profitable thing.
To learn more, I visited stopillegaltobacco.ca. I learned that, in Canada, illegal cigarettes have an estimated profit of $75 million per year. That’s a lot of money making its way to the 175 or so known crime groups in Canada. It’s buying guns — and a lot of them.
I learned that this isn’t about smuggling cheap cigarettes in from south of the border. There are some 50 illegal factories between Ontario and Quebec producing as many as 50 cartons’ worth of smokes every three minutes.
I learned that the problem is growing and costing taxpayers billions of dollars.
Then, I signed a petition with the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco to help make Ontario safer.
Make no mistake: this isn’t just happening in big cities. It’s happening in neighbourhoods. It could be happening in your neighbourhood. It could be happening in mine. Near my children. Near yours.
So I’m not asking you to stop smoking.
I’m asking that if you must smoke that you purchase your cigarettes from an above-the-board retailer. The kind that takes your money in daylight, at a cash register. The kind that charges taxes.
When you smoke, you choose to hurt your own body — and as an adult, that’s entirely your decision. But when you buy your tobacco illegally, you choose to put money in the hands of criminals who are hurting others. So choose wisely.
DISCLAIMER: The #StopIllegalTobacco campaign compensated me for this post, but make no mistake — this is a cause that makes me mad as hell. Yeah, I hate smoking and wish you’d stop polluting my world. But I hate the idea of you buying your cigarettes illegally and funding criminal activities, including murder, a whole lot more.