Quebec law would crack down on contraband smokes
Published Thursday, October 29, 2009 9:22AM EDT
The Quebec government is cracking down on contraband tobacco through a bill that would increase fines and give police more power to control distribution.
Revenue Minister Robert Dutil plans to table the bill in the legislature this fall.
He admits the government loses $300 million in taxes each year and that illegal smokes have a large share of the market.
Quebec's convenience store association is very happy with the bill, but they want two thirds of the illegal smokes off the market in one year.
Michel Gadbois, head of the association, is also demanding a tax cut on legal cigarettes but Dutil says that won't happen.
"The only consequence of that is to increase tobacco usage so we don't agree on that," said the minister.
Apart from fines, the most important change would extend jurisdiction over contraband to Quebec's municipal police.
They would be able to stop suspected smugglers, then seize contraband and vehicles.
The new legislation won't stop tobacco shacks on native reserves but Quebec says that once the contraband smokes leave the reserves, police could be able to stop them from reaching the market.