Butt out illegal cigarettes: Hudak

Progressive Conservative finance critic Tim Hudak on Monday called on the McGuinty Liberals to squash Ontario’s illegal cigarette trade, which is fuelling organized criminal activity and depriving the province of hundreds of millions of tax dollars each year.
“Contraband cigarettes are not only costing Ontarians hundreds of millions in lost revenue, but cheap, black market cigarettes also lead to increased incidence of smoking, especially among young people,” said Hudak.
“Yet [Premier] McGuinty has done little more than blow smoke at people concerned about this problem,” he charged.
Hudak cited recent arrests in connection with a shipment of illegal cigarettes valued at $3.6 million, which would have resulted in more than $1 million in lost tax revenues for the province.
“If the province doesn’t receive expected tax revenues from the sale of legal cigarettes, taxes could be slapped on elsewhere to make up for the shortfall,” said Hudak.
“With the McGuinty Liberal penchant to tax-and-spend, the last thing they need is a reason to hike taxes again,” he warned.
A study by the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit found that 37 percent of Ontario smokers avoided paying tobacco taxes by purchasing illegal cigarettes.
The Ontario Convenience Stores Association estimates the province is losing almost $600 million a year from lost tobacco and sales taxes.
“Dalton McGuinty can’t have his hand in the pockets of hard-working Ontarians and turn a blind eye to illegal activities which hurt those same people,” said Hudak.