Serious consequences for buying contraband tobacco
For many smokers, the thought of saving a few dollars is enough to buy contraband tobacco. What smokers must realize is that there are serious consequences if tobacco products are not purchased or sold legally.
In Manitoba, tobacco products must meet both the federal and provincial legislations:
The federal requirements: the Excise Act, 2001
Under the Excise Act, 2001, an excise stamp must appear on packages of cigarettes and pouches of tobacco indicating that the manufacturer has paid the relevant duties. The manufacturer’s name and address, or the manufacturer’s permit number must also appear on the package. If you purchase tobacco products that are not marked as required by law, you are in possession of illegal products.
If you sell or are in possession of illegal tobacco products, here are sobering facts to consider:
• You are subject to arrest. If you are stopped in a vehicle, the driver and any passengers of the vehicle will be arrested
• Those involved along with any premises and vehicles are subject to search upon arrest for evidence relating to the acquisition or possession of contraband tobacco
• Evidence found will be seized which may include property or vehicles
• You will be fingerprinted and photographed and may be held in custody pending a court appearance. If not, you will be released to attend Federal court at a set date by the Officer
• You are responsible for any legal fees
• Offenders can face heavy fines or a prison term up to five years or both
• Seized property can be permanently confiscated
• You will have a criminal record
The provincial requirements: the Tobacco Tax Act
The Manitoba Tobacco Tax Act prohibits the sale of non-Manitoba marked tobacco products, and this Act applies province wide, including on First Nations. The Act applies to all tobacco sales on- and off-reserve, by both Aboriginal owned and non-Aboriginal owned businesses. The Manitoba Tobacco Tax Act requires tobacco products sold in the Province of Manitoba to be appropriately marked, indicating taxes have been paid on the product.
These same laws apply to possession of tobacco products.
Those found to be possessing non-Manitoba marked tobacco for resale face stiff fines and or jail time, as laid out under the Manitoba Tobacco Tax Act. Fines range from $1,000 to upwards of $10,000, or six months in jail, or both for a first offence. In addition, individuals found guilty would be assessed a triple tax penalty of $150 per carton in their possession. Penalties increase for repeat offenders and are further increased for a corporation. Corporations convicted of a first time offence can be fined up to $20,000 and repeat offences will result in higher fines.
Tobacco is regulated both for public health reasons and tax administration purposes.
Manitoba Finance will continue to investigate illegal activities surrounding the sale of tobacco by any businesses or individuals in the province. Anyone caught selling or purchasing contraband tobacco is in violation of Manitoba tax laws, and is subject to prosecution.
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