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More than five million illegal cigarettes seized in B.C. in 2019-20

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More than five million illegal cigarettes were taken off the street last year.

This saves the province $1.4 million in potential taxation revenue loss, revenue that could be put toward the services and programs that British Columbians rely on, including health care, infrastructure and education.

The illegal tobacco was seized during undercover investigations conducted with local law enforcement agencies. The Ministry of Finance’s Consumer Taxation Audit Branch also regularly inspects retail outlets to ensure retailers are not selling contraband products.

Surrey, Vancouver and Kelowna top the list for amounts of tobacco seized during operations:

* Surrey: approximately 3.6 million cigarettes

* Vancouver: approximately 1.6 million cigarettes

* Kelowna: approximately 82,000 cigarettes

The province strictly regulates the sale, purchase, possession and transportation of tobacco. Contraband tobacco includes products that are not properly stamped or marked, or legal products that are purchased and sold illegally.

Contraband tobacco can get into the hands of people under the age of 19 and can contribute to increased criminal activities, such as organized crime and drug and gun trafficking. A loss of tax revenue due to illegal tobacco means reduced funding for government programs.

Individuals can anonymously report the illegal sale and distribution of contraband tobacco:

* by phone:
* toll-free at 1 877 977-0858

* or online:
* to the Ministry of Finance: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/report-tax-tip

* or to Crime Stoppers: http://www.bccrimestoppers.com/

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