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Okanagan a ‘hot spot’ for contraband tobacco

Retailers sound alarm after traffic stop in Vernon saw more than a million illegal smokes seized
Police in Vernon seized nearly 1.5 million contraband cigarettes after a traffic stop was conducted on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (RCMP photo)

British Columbia’s convenience store owners are raising the alarm about the fact that criminals are using the province’s roadways to transport illegal tobacco and likely other illicit goods at an alarming rate throughout the Okanagan region.

Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP recently released details about a traffic stop that led to police seizing nearly 1.5 million contraband cigarettes in Vernon on Jan. 8.

While B.C. convenience store owners are grateful that police are continuing to investigate this serious incident, store owners are calling on the province’s Minister of Public Safety to step up and take the lead in making British Columbia safer for everyone.

The Retailers Alliance 4 Safe Communities (RA4SC) is calling on Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth to publicly acknowledge this is a serious issue that is top of mind for the B.C. government and urgently establish a Contraband Tobacco Prevention Task Force.

“We believe a Contraband Prevention Task Force is the first step in addressing the buying and selling of illicit tobacco in our province and finding a way together to implement stronger enforcement and penalties for those that break the law,” said the alliance in a news release

The Okanagan has been named a hot spot for the buying and selling of contraband tobacco and the alliance says contraband tobacco invites criminal activity into the province and fosters a breeding ground for other dangerous activity such as the trafficking of drugs, humans, and weapons.

B.C. retailers are also asking the provincial government to address contraband tobacco in the upcoming 2023 provincial budget, which is set to be released this month.

Loss of sales: Every year, lawful and licensed convenient store owners lose out on millions in revenue due to the prevalence of illegal tobacco sales.

Loss of tax revenue: Illicit trade robs British Columbians of millions of dollars in provincial tax revenue that support B.C. social programs.

Harming small business: Convenience store retailers in B.C. are suffering due to the inability to compete with organized crime groups.

Stronger enforcement and policies needed: Better policies are required to stop contraband tobacco from further devastating convenience retailers and B.C. communities.

B.C.’s inaction: Other provinces have acted to address the issue of contraband tobacco. The alliance says it’s time the B.C. government acts to protect consumers, stores owners, and the safety of provincial communities.

The Convenience Retailers Alliance 4 Safe Communities is an advocacy group calling for action against contraband tobacco in British Columbia.Image removed by sender.

For further information: To learn more, visit: or email

READ MORE: Police seize 1.5 million illegal cigarettes after Vernon traffic stop

READ MORE: Contraband tobacco inhales 30 to 50 per cent of B.C. market, retailers, industry fear

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Black Press Media Staff

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