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Contraband Tobacco

Injects Criminal Activity Into Our Community

Contraband Tobacco - Injects Criminal Activity Into Our Communities

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What is it?

Contraband / Illicit Tobacco is any tobacco product that does not comply with federal and provincial laws, which includes importation, marking, manufacturing, stamping and payment of duties and taxes.

Contraband tobacco is illegal tobacco.

Why is it a serious problem?

Organized crime groups are extensively involved in the distribution of contraband tobacco. When you buy contraband tobacco products you contribute to a major underground economy worth hundreds of millions of dollars and growing.

Profits from the sale of contraband tobacco are used to fund other illegal activities, such as the movement of drugs, weapons and money laundering operations. The contraband tobacco market is a serious threat to public safety.

Within the first three years of the RCMP 2008 contraband tobacco enforcement strategy, the RCMP disrupted over 56 organized crime groups, laid over 2,350 charges under the excise act, 2001 and seized over 3.2 million cartons/unmarked bags of contraband cigarettes, 1,600 vehicles, 70 vessels and 7 other properties.

The clear plastic resealable bags or "baggies" of 200 cigarettes are the most commonly found form of illegal tobacco.

Where does it come from?

There are four main sources of contraband / illicit tobacco in Canada:

  1. Illegal Manufacturers: Unlicensed and unregulated production operations make the tobacco products. These manufacturers range from small improvised facilities to fully equipped manufacturing plants involving serious organized crime groups.
  2. Counterfeits: Illegal reproductions of common tobacco brands, along with other foreign tobacco products, which enter the country illegally, often by way of sea containers or cross-border smuggling.
  3. Tax-exempt Diversions: Tobacco products from First Nations communities, which have tax reliefs, are diverted throughout Canada and then resold to consumers. Such a scheme allows the seller to offer the product at a discounted rate, making it more appealing.
  4. Other Illegal Forms: For example, the reselling of legal tobacco products obtained through theft.

How can I tell if it's contraband?

A tear strip or stamp must appear on packages of cigarettes and pouches of tobacco, which indicate the manufacturer paid the duties.

The name and address or permit number of the manufacturer must also appear on the packaging.

Tobacco products that have no tear strip or stamp and no manufacturing name and address or permit numbers are illegal products.

Contraband tobacco increases the tax burden on Canadians through lost tax revenues. Legitimate businesses suffer because they cannot compete with the low cost of illegal cigarettes.

What happens if I'm caught with it?

The consequences of dealing in illegal tobacco products are serious. Offenders are liable to substantial fines, confiscation of their property (including money, boats, vehicles and homes) and a prison term of up to five years pursuant to the Excise Act, 2001 and any other provincial legislation.

What can I do about it?

If you suspect illegal tobacco production, packaging and/or trafficking in your neighbourhood or if you have information regarding the illegal tobacco market, contact the RCMP, your local police service or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

For more information, visit our website at:

All information provided will be treated confidentially.