Oakville, Burlington, Milton and Halton Hills residents are being warned about the sale and use of illegal cigarettes.
“It’s not a victimless crime,” said Halton Crime Stoppers chairman Cal Millar.
“In addition to fuelling crime at the local, national and international levels, illicit tobacco products pose major health threats to the public and make it easier for young people to start smoking.”
The distribution of guns and drugs are being financed through illegal tobacco sales and many human trafficking operations, according to a news release distributed by the Ontario Association of Crime Stoppers.
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Organized crime is extensively involved in the illegal tobacco market and criminal gangs are using profits from the sale of contraband tobacco to fund a number of other illegal activities, including guns, drugs and human trafficking, says the RCMP and other police organizations.
The illegal activity of contraband tobacco has also been linked to funding for terrorist groups, according to INTERPOL, the world’s largest international police organization.
A 2016 report from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute titled Smoking Gun: Strategic Containment Of Contraband Tobacco And Cigarette Trafficking In Canada showed criminal investigations in the US have directly linked those involved in the illegal tobacco trade to terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas and al Qaeda.
Given the close connection between illegal cigarettes “and its funding of criminal activity in our communities, it’s important to educate and empower members of the community to safely make a difference by calling Crime Stoppers,” said OACS director Sean Sportun.
The OACS is urging people to think about where their money is going when they purchase contraband cigarettes and other tobacco products.
In addition to the loss of $1 billion a year to the Ontario treasury, money generated from the sale of illegal cigarettes goes to fund organized crime and terrorist activities.
Residents are encouraged call Crime Stoppers if they know where illegal cigarettes are being sold.