Government workers lighting up illegal smokes, study finds

OTTAWA – Federal government workers, high school students and Supreme Court employees are buying illegal smokes, says a study by the Canadian Convenience Stores Association.

The study, released Monday, counted cigarette butts outside government buildings and schools in Ottawa and examined to determine how many were contraband. The results show how widespread the problem is and the adverse effect it having on corner store owners, say the study’s sponsors.

“It’s everywhere,” Michel Gadbois, senior vice-president of the CCSA. “Morally, these are places that should be zero per cent because they are government buildings,” Gadbois told a news conference Monday.  The butt study results ranged from a high of 39 per cent contraband outside an Ottawa high school to 22 per cent outside the Supreme Court building.

Outside the Department of Finance building the researchers found 32 per cent contraband butts.  Gadbois said the association wants federal and provincial governments to crack down on cigarette smuggling and reduce it to 10 per cent, down from a high of 50 per cent.  “If not, it means we have accepted criminality,” he said.

Chris Wilcox, vice-president of Quickie Convenience Stores, said two Quickie stores have closed in the last 18 months alone.  Wilcox called for the federal government create the position of tobacco czar to co-ordinate the attack on illegal smokes.  “Right now it is a disorganized mess,” Wilcox said.  He noted that the new Harmonized Sales Tax in Ontario will hike a carton of legally produced cigarettes to $88 from $82.

Monday was the kick-off for a 25-city tour by the association, which is to release individual butt studies for each of the communities.

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