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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Canada’s Boom in Smuggled Cigarettes

More than 150 Indian smoke shops crowd the nine-kilometer strip of Highway 138 that runs through the heart of the Kahnawake reserve. With names like Mega Butts, Get ’n’ Go, and Another Dam Cigarette Store, they serve the relentless flow of commuters between Montreal and its southern suburbs. They sell predominantly re-sealable bags of no-name cigarettes and Indian brands such as Native, Montcalm, Broncos, and DK’s, most of which, Splicer said, are made on the reserve.

The price of a carton of legal cigarettes in Canada varies between C$60 and C$80, depending on the province. Indian-made brands cost from C$12 to C$35, and no-name brands, which come in re-sealable bags, sell for as low as C$8 for 200 cigarettes. (Competition in Kahnawake grew so intense last year that baggy prices sank to C$6 before the Kahnawake Tobacco Association imposed price controls with a C$10 minimum. Still, the Center found some retailers selling for C$8.)

In addition to Kahnawake, police claim about 11 Indian manufacturers are operating on the Canadian and U.S. side of the border at Akwesasne. The Center tried to track down these operations but could locate only two that were still in operation. Officials say there are also manufacturers on the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford in southwestern Ontario and the Tyendinaga reserve near Belleville, Ontario.


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