More than five million illegal cigarettes were seized last year in BC, with Surrey, Vancouver and Kelowna topping the list for seizures.
In Surrey, approximately 3.6 million cigarettes were seized. In Vancouver, approximately 1.6 million cigarettes were seized, while approximately 82,000 cigarettes were seized by public officials in Kelowna.
The illegal cigarettes were seized during undercover investigations conducted with the help of local law enforcement agencies.
Government said the province saved $1.4 million in potential taxation revenue loss, money that could be put toward services and programs in BC.
The Ministry of Finance’s Consumer Taxation Audit Branch also regularly inspects retail outlets to ensure retailers are not selling contraband products, the province said.
Meanwhile, citizens can anonymously report the illegal sale and distribution of contraband tobacco at a toll free phone, which is 1 877 977-0858.
Illegal sales can also be reported online to the Ministry of Finance: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/report-tax-tip or to Crime Stoppers at http://www.bccrimestoppers.com/
“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,” BC said.