Services Nova Scotia has seized 118,000 illegal cigarettes, the equivalent of close to 6,000 twenty-packs.The government says overall contraband tobacco is decreasing, but convenience stores say there’s still more work to be done. They say they’d like to see Nova Scotia follow New Brunswick’s lead.
The cigarettes were seized in the community of Lakeside, just outside of Halifax.
“This Tuesday we made arrests of two individuals,” says Service NS Audit & Enforcement Director Bernie Meagher. “Two vehicles and approximately 12 cases of smuggled tobacco were also seized.”
The seizure has a tax value of $32,000.
This is the latest in a number of recent busts, including one earlier this summer where police seized 870,000 contraband cigarettes from a Dartmouth storage unit.
“It basically verifies our concern that we’ve got a contraband problem in the province,” says Mike Hammoud of the Atlantic Convenience Stores Association.
Atlantic convenience stores are commending the government’s efforts; for them, it’s about the viability of their business.
“We’re selling a legal product,” says Hammoud. “We’re collecting the taxes on those products and those taxes go toward social programs, to healthcare, and to things that government use to combat tobacco.”
The government says 10 years ago, 30 percent of tobacco consumed in the province was illegal. Now, they say that number has dropped to five to 10 percent.
“Our efforts have paid off and we’ve significantly reduced the smuggling in Nova Scotia,” says Meagher. “That’s an important thing, because it actually supports the tobacco control strategy to reduce smoking in Nova Scotia.”
The province of New Brunswick has established a Contraband Enforcement Unit, dedicated to investigatingthose involved in contraband tobacco. That’s what the Atlantic Convenience Stores Association would like to see in Nova Scotia.
“Our hope is that Nova Scotia will follow their lead and create a similar contraband unit to focus on contraband tobacco,” says Hammoud.
However, the director of Service Nova Scotia’s Audit and Enforcement Unit says that’s just not necessary.
“My unit, my staff, work on fuel, tobacco taxes and sales,” says Meagher. “A significant portion of their workload revolves around tobacco, so we do have the dedicated resources on tobacco.”