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It’s time to protect our youth from the threat of easily accessible, illicit nicotine pouches

CICC has identified more than 90 e-commerce sites that are illicitly retailing an entire suite of nicotine products.
CICC Contraband Tobacco Campaign

Delivered to your house with the click of a mouse.

That’s not only the tag line of CICC’s new government outreach efforts concerning youth access to illicit nicotine pouches sold online, but also the stark reality.

CICC has identified more than 90 e-commerce sites that are illicitly retailing an entire suite of nicotine products including cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, vaping products as well as a vast array of nicotine pouches. 

Demonstrating the ease of unfettered access to these illicit products, regardless of age, is the focus of reaching out to all federal MPs and posing the question if our youth are indeed safe in the digital world. We are encouraging each MP to address the real issue of youth access to nicotine products and take immediate action to shut down these dangerous sites. 


Contraband tobacco — a uniquely Canadian issue — has historically been an issue that has cost manufacturers, convenience stores, governments and Canadian communities. However, the antiquated imagery of selling cartons of cigarettes out of the trunk of a car or the back of a truck, has now entered the digital e-commerce age and is bolstering the unrestricted market where products are being sold for as much as 70% cheaper than legal products online. In fact, industry estimates have pegged the online contraband market accounting for as much as 20% of all products sold. 

But the illicit market is not just restricted to tobacco products anymore. The contraband industry has evolved to include a suite of nicotine products including vape and the latest product to hit the market, nicotine pouches.

Why? Profit. We know that contraband tobacco is a low-risk, high-reward industry. At 8x more lucrative than the illicit street drug market, diversifying the product mix to include the latest synthetic nicotine products only will enhance that margin.

And the crafty online contraband “bad actors” are employing professional marketing tactics to reach Canadians. Social media advertisements, the offer of multi-product discounts, and even e-mail outreach are all part of the overall strategy to entice Canadians to buy their products. 

But promoting fast delivery using Canada Post’s XpressPost, right to your door, is the industry standard. While unbelievable, this not only causes confusion, but in fact legitimizes this illegal activity. 

CICC Contraband Tobacco Campaign Protect Our Youth


Cigarettes and other new-age nicotine goods are under the microscope by both provincial and federal governments in Canada, under the guise of restricting youth access.

PEI and Newfoundland and Labrador are considering banning the sale of tobacco products to anyone born after a specific year.

Health Canada is currently overhauling the retail of nicotine pouches, with the intent to restrict sale solely in Canadian pharmacies. 

As responsible retailers, we agree with limiting youth access. That’s why we developed stringent industry guidelines on the responsible sale of nicotine pouches. Historically, we boast a stellar track record in selling tobacco and other age-restricted products, as identified by the Canadian Association for Mental Health (CAMH)

But that doesn’t matter to governments. Despite their best intentions, their over-zealous policies do nothing but bolster the contraband market, defeating their intended public health objectives of restricting youth access and moving smokers to less harmful alternatives. 

The message to Canadian convenience stores is clear despite data that proves otherwise, “you can’t be trusted.” 

READ:  Atlantic Canada looks to curb fast-growing contraband tobacco market

As an industry, it’s time to fight back. We must demonstrate that not only that we can be trusted and we must play a leading role in any solution, not be disregarded as part of the problem. 

Convenience stores play a critical role in supporting communities across Canada and most importantly, we won’t be silent as our industry is slandered, time after time.

We share the same public health objectives as governments - We are responsible retailers and unlike the unrestricted contraband market, we abide by government regulations. Additionally, we collect a lot of tax money on an annual basis. 

The message governments are sending to Canada’s convenience retailers is “so what?”.

That’s not good enough. 

It’s time to level the playing field for law-abiding retailers, and tackle the contraband nicotine industry. 

The reality is, until this issue is addressed, introducing any new regulations is a complete waste of time and an exercise in futility, when there are lower-cost, unregulated alternatives available as easy as the click of a mouse and delivered to your house,

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