The seizure of $14,000 worth of illegal cigarettes last week in Pictou County has caught the attention of the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco.
Jacqueline Bradley, executive director of the coalition, phoned this newspaper to publicly express what she believes is a growing trend in Eastern Canada.
She said she first became involved in the topic when her 15-year-old daughter came home from a party talking about people passing around cigarettes in a plastic baggie.
She did some research and discovered it was contraband smokes.
“For me the only thing I want my kids taking out of a baggie is their lunch,” she said.
Youth are one of the main targets of contraband cigarettes and that’s something she says parents should be concerned about.
“We have no way of truly knowing what’s in them because there is no control.”
The primary target is high schools where they provide youth easy access.
“People who are trafficking these to our kids are not asking for ID,” she said.
These illegal smokes are particularly appealing to youth, she said, because they are so cheap.
“According to a recent study the sales of illegal cigarettes are up 10 to 20 per cent in Nova Scotia,” she said.
In Ontario and Quebec, the sale of illegal cigarettes is something that’s already well entrenched, but Bradley said it’s not too late for Eastern Canadians to step up and help prevent the same from happening here.
“I just want families to understand that our children are being directly targeted. We have to put a cap on this as quickly as possible.”
The sale of illegal smokes is also tied to other crimes she said.
Aside from the detrimental effect it can have on youth, she said it’s also damaging to local convenience stores, which rely on the revenue from legal cigarettes to stay afloat.