Thursday, March 06, 2008

Children can now import cigars, cigarettes, tobacco products, internal Canada Border Services Agency memo shows - 24 hours newspaper exclusive

Kids can import tobacco


24 HOURS columnist

The federal government has quietly told Canada Border Services Agency officers to allow children to import tobacco products into Canada from foreign countries, an internal document obtained by 24 hours shows.

Anti-smoking advocates and the border officers' union are shocked.

"According to a legal opinion recently obtained by Headquarters, federal and provincial laws on tobacco have no provisions to prevent the importation of tobacco products," reads a CBSA memorandum circulated in late 2007.

"Border Services Officers should therefore no longer seize or hold tobacco products imported by minors for the sole reason that they are minors," the memo concludes.

The directive means children of any age can import tobacco products into Canada, including taking advantage of duty-free exemptions of 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, 200 tobacco sticks and 200 grams of manufactured tobacco if they have been outside the country for longer than 48 hours.

The undated memo, signed by Raymond Bedard, the Canada Border Services Agency's Director, Partnerships Division, Admissibility Branch, states that as of May 3, 2007 age requirements on tobacco importation have been deleted.

It adds that the "I Declare" pamphlet given to tourists and Canadian residents returning to Canada "no longer mentions a minimum age for the importation of tobacco products."

The union representing Border Services officers is appalled.

"Ethically and morally, it's wrong," said George Scott, a national vice-president of the Customs Excise Union. "All our officers want to do the right thing. Children shouldn't be smoking."

And Scott McDonald, Executive Director of the B.C. Lung Association called the change "bizarre" and called for immediate federal action.

"It would be irresponsible of the government not to close that loophole," McDonald told 24 hours Thursday. "It would not be very responsible to allow minors to import tobacco products."

McDonald said tobacco products cannot be legally sold to anyone under the age of 19 in British Columbia, while some other provinces have an age restriction of 18.

An Ottawa spokesperson for CBSA was contacted and sent a copy of the memo but did not respond to an interview request by deadline.

Scott said his main concern is that parents travelling with children will use them to increase their tobacco imports.

"Parents who smoke can use their children," he said.


The CBSA memo says that alcohol age restrictions remain in force. It also says that "the E311 declaration card" that travellers returning to Canada receive will be "update shortly."

Scott said he believes that the memo "took effect a long time ago but a lot of managers don't even know about it."

"It's not like they [CBSA] made a big deal about it," he said.

McDonald of the Lung Association, which is also a member of the anti-smoking Clean Air Coalition of BC, said he expects the public to be outraged at the idea of minor importing tobacco.

"The public would not support that," he said. "Surely if its a loophole in the legislation that can be dealt with. Revise whatever wording is necessary."

Despite contacting first the BC office of the CBSA and later its Ottawa office and talking to representatives about the details of the memo, no response was received March 6.

Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day, the minister responsible for the CBSA, is Conservative Member of Parliament for Okanagan – Coquihalla


Anonymous said...

The entire border situation
is out of control ON BOTH SIDES.

With paranoid and abusive US Homeland Security types at Peace Arch Crossing looking for "Northern Wetbacks" in peoples' glove-compartments and interrogating women and babies like they are Hamas agents wearing suicide vests, we have our over-paid border-idiots allowing babies to import cigars into BC.

Add to this the deplorable state of our never to be finished "new" CDN border station and all I see on either side of the 49th is a mess.

Stockwell Day better get off his jet ski and get back to earning his Minister's pay.

North America, not just the America has been going to hell since 911 . . . and most of it is by "our" own doing.


Anonymous said...

As far as I can see S Harper and his extreme "Bush" rightwing gang are the most anti-Canadian force ever!
Check out
Tobacco product imports is just a Conservative derailment ploy.
Thank you

The Biker said...

What is the big deal?

Back in the 50's my Bro & moi (ages 7 & 10) were able to import 200 smokes each for good old Mom & a bottle of booze each for Pop.

Neither were for our use, but we managed to get our fair share of the booze back during our teenage years when the parents were away and we got into the liquor cabinet.