Sometimes it feels like I can’t keep up with the scary things in our world. Deaths, attacks, hatred, and violence – it can be overwhelming, and hard to know where we can even start to make the world a better place. It feels easier to tackle the issues here in our own country first, but sometimes even that’s so big and daunting.
I’m lucky to live in what I believe is a fairly safe community. Many of the issues I see in the news aren’t things we’ve had to face personally, but that doesn’t mean they don’t concern me, or that we don’t worry about how they affect others. Our country’s concerns are our concerns, too.
The other day, I heard an ad on the radio. It was a dramatization of a woman calling 9-1-1 because someone had been shot. Jarring, for sure. The point of the ad was to bring awareness to illegal tobacco in Ontario. Confused? So was I. Of all the things to worry about, a new one was being presented to us, in a very real way. It’s something that had never crossed my mind.
I wasn’t making the connection between the two points, but the fact is that the sale of illegal cigarettes is a lot bigger and deeper than I think most of us really know.
Illegal tobacco sales help fund gangs and organized crime groups in Ontario. There are more than 50 illegal cigarette factories in Ontario, capable of producing up to 10,000 cigarettes per minute. Organized crime groups distribute those untaxed cigarettes across Canada, which in turn funds the drug and gun trades. I bet most of you reading don’t really think about those two things being a personal concern, but when they affect our country, province, city or community, they affect us, too.
It’s something I’ve never even thought about. There are just so many things we’re so lucky to never have to even consider, aren’t there? We have so much privilege as Canadians, but that doesn’t mean that these things aren’t topics we need to know about, and to understand. We need to be aware of these things because the decisions we make, and the awareness we have works together to help protect our families, our friends and our communities. I know that the very last thing our country needs is more guns and drugs on the streets.
Sure, the illegal tobacco market affects Ontario’s tax revenues, and certainly affects retailers of legal cigarettes, but on a more personal note, these contraband cigarettes are far cheaper than legal ones. Cheap smokes makes it easier for kids to obtain them. I don’t want tobacco to be a part of my kids’ lives, much less tobacco that funds such illegal activity.
Estimates place profits from illegal tobacco around $75 million annually – that’s an awful lot of profit for organized crime to control, isn’t it? It’s not about the tax dollars; this is about putting that much money into the hands of the people putting guns on our streets.
So what can we do? First, we can educate ourselves. There are a lot of eye-opening facts to read at StopIllegalTobacco.ca, and we can share the message.
There are so many things I never think about – illegal tobacco is no longer on that list.