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Canadian C-stores Welcome Crackdown on Contraband Tobacco

MONTREAL -- The Canadian federal government on Friday announced an assortment of new measures and funding aimed at fighting contraband tobacco in the country, according to the Canadian Convenience Store Association.

"The concrete measures announced today are in line with our demands and we are quite happy about it," said Michel Gadbois, senior vice president of the Canadian Convenience Stores Association (CCSA), which has been in the midst of a nation-wide campaign to rally Parliament members to reduce contraband tobacco by 10 percent in 2010.

"The federal government is making specific and concrete moves to enforce the law, ensure border integrity and raise awareness of the issue among consumers, one of our association's key recommendations," noted Gadbois.

Last April, former National Revenue Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn made a commitment to launch a federal advertising campaign to fight contraband tobacco, which the CCSA demanded to raise awareness among Canadians that purchasing contraband tobacco is a crime. The CCSA cited a poll conducted on its behalf in 2008 that found a strong majority of 64 percent of Quebeckers and 75 percent of Ontarians perceived the purchase of contraband tobacco on native reserves, without payment of taxes, to be a legal act.

"An advertising campaign will be useful and relevant in reminding smokers and those around them that buying or consuming contraband tobacco is an illegal act that creates an enormous number of harmful consequences for the community and for youth, particularly by financing organized crime," said Gadbois.

The CCSA also welcomed the arrival of Minister Vic Toews at the helm of Public Safety, as well as that of Minister Keith Ashfield to National Revenue. "Just a few months after taking up their positions, the two ministers did what was necessary to release these announcements and move forward. It's entirely to their credit and we want to stress this," said Gadbois.

According to the Canadian Convenience Store Association, Gadbois also said he hoped the new measures by the federal government would spur the Ontario government to action. "We believe Ontario needs to follow Quebec's lead and do things like empower provincial and municipal law enforcement authorities," said Gadbois.

The CCSA vowed to monitor the impact of the new measures and promised to push for more "draconian solutions" if they don't work to reduce the sale of contraband tobacco.

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