The B.C government has seized 1.5 million grams of illegal tobacco in the lower mainland during the first quarter of the fiscal year as part of its ongoing battle against the contraband product.
Three operations were carried out by the Ministry of Finance’s Investigations Unit in the Lower Mainland. In Richmond, 1,140 grams of illegal tobacco were seized, while an operation in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside netted 10,000 grams, and in the Vancouver-Burnaby area 1,558,040 grams of illegal smokes were seized.
In total, the three Metro Vancouver operations resulted in the seizure of over 1.5 million grams of illegal tobacco – or about 1.6 million cigarettes – during the first quarter of the 2019-20 fiscal year. In monetary terms, this represents a loss of more than $425,000 of provincial tobacco tax.
In the previous fiscal year, 2018-19, the Investigations Unit seized two million grams of contraband tobacco in Richmond, equalling a $537,000 tax loss for the province. In the same period in Vancouver, 5.75 million grams were seized.
Illegal tobacco is less expensive than its legal counterpart, according to the ministry, and can lead to a rise in criminal activities, such as organized crime, and drug and gun trafficking.
The province taxes loose tobacco at a rate of 37.5 cents per gram, while cigarettes are taxed at $5.50 per pack and $6.88 per 25-pack. Cigars are taxed at 90.5 per cent of their retail price, to a maximum of $7 per cigar.
While the Investigations Unit works closely with local law enforcement agencies, RCMP, Canada Revenue Agency and the Canadian Border Services Agency, the ministry said that people can report the illegal sale and distribution of tobacco through the Ministry of Finance’s tip line at 1-877-977-0850, or through email at IUnit@gov.bc.ca.