Today, my heart hurts.
My heart hurts for the people of France, still reeling from the senseless violence and destruction that has forever impacted their bodies, minds, and spirits. My heart hurts for the people of Beirut, who faced the same destructive chaos just days before, with only a fraction of awareness and support from their allies around the world.
Yes, my heart hurts. But it is also very, very fearful.
Because we all know that Canada is not immune to the tragedies experienced by other countries. And every day, as I kiss my children goodbye and watch their little bodies bobble away with a spring in their step, I think of another mom, in another country, who loves her children just as fiercely; who has the same hopes and dreams – yet a very different promise for a brighter future. And even though I can’t fix the world, I can be aware of the violence happening in my own city.
Maybe even in my own backyard.
While I’ve been obsessed with events happening a world away, I haven’t paid enough attention to the crisis over illegal tobacco in Ontario. And I’m not alone.
Almost half of Ontarians are unaware that illegal tobacco is fueling gun and drug trafficking.
In Canada, the production and sale of contraband cigarettes is on the rise with over 50 illegal factories across Ontario and Quebec, capable of producing up to 10,000 cigarettes every minute.
(10,000 cigarettes a minute. 10,000 illegal cigarettes a minute.)
Did You Know:
– The size of the illegal tobacco market in Ontario could be equivalent to 3 billion illegal cigarettes (15 million cartons).
– Estimated gross profit from illegal tobacco is $75 million dollars annually.
– The highly profitable sale of illegal cigarettes is funding criminal activities, including drug and gun trafficking benefiting approximately 175 organized crime groups and gangs in Canada (nearly half of which are based in central Canada).
– Approximately 1 in 3 cigarettes purchased in Ontario are illegal, compared to an average of 1 in 10 in other provinces.
Sick, sick, sick. That’s how I feel. How could I not have known? Why are so many Ontarians unaware? And most importantly, what can be done?
This year, Ontario took control of raw-leaf production to better monitor and control leaves intended for the legitimate industry. Additionally, earlier this month, the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco (NCACT) launched an advertising campaign in Ontario to drive awareness of the production, distribution and sale of illegal tobacco and the impact it has on local communities.
That’s what the province is doing. Here’s what we can do. Learn more about the facts linking organized crime to the sale of illegal tobacco. StopIllegalTobacco.ca is an NCACT website, chock full of useful information (and some pretty startling statistics). Inform yourself, and your neighbours.
Join the discussion on Twitter, use the hashtag #StopIllegalTobacco.
Social media has transformed the way news reaches our eyes and ears. Remember, information is a weapon, too. And together, we can wield it in a way that puts an end to gun violence.