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By Alaya Linton Updated June 25, If you are a smoker, you are undoubtedly aware of the harmful impact smoking has on your health. And as damaging as smoking can be to your health, it also has a considerable negative effect on something else— your wallet. Plunking down a few dollars for a single pack of smokes may seem harmless, but the cost of maintaining this habit long-term is anything but. How Much Do You Spend? But depending on where you live, you could be paying much more.

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Some days, a long line of customers can be seen stretching out the door and into the large parking lot, which is surrounded by a chainlink fence topped with razor wire. Other days, earlier in the morning, drivers wait patiently in their vehicles alongside the road -- orange pylons sit on the shoulders, in an effort to discourage traffic disruptions -- for the Smoke Shop to open, sometimes for up to an hour.

But when asked for their name, as the Star and Loupe normally requires for in-print attribution, the smokers suddenly clam up. Rennie Goose is the only retailer authorized to sell allocation cigarettes on the Mississaugas of Scugog Island reserve.

The former First Nations chief -- he was at the helm from to -- has been in the cigarette business for 23 years and has operated the Smoke Shack at Island Rd. He estimates that 90 per cent -- maybe 99 per cent -- of his customers are not of First Nations heritage. Goose, defining allocation cigarettes. Instead, he continued, the non-First Nations customers are streaming into his store to buy cigarettes that have been manufactured on First Nations reserves, brands such as Putters, DK and Sago.

Goose stressed that everything he sells is approved by the federal government. To become an authorized retailer within the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation, a seller must apply for a business licensing permit and comply with all requirements of the First Nations business licensing law. Those cigarettes are exempt from Ontario tobacco tax. Each year, the Ministry of Finance calculates the total quantity, for each reserve, of allocation cigarettes that ministry-authorized tobacco wholesalers are permitted to deliver to ministry-authorized reserve retailers for that allocation year.

The allocation year runs from April 1 to March Allocation cigarettes have the federal peach-coloured stamp on the package, but Ontario tobacco tax has not been accounted for on those allocation cigarettes -- which drastically reduces the prices.

Who can, and cannot, purchase cigarettes from First Nations retailers is spelled out clearly in the act -- if not in the individual stores. It is illegal to sell allocation cigarettes to non-First Nations individuals.

The ministry, he added, has given no thought to forcing on-reserve retailers to seek proper proof from a First Nations individual before a sale is completed. But on Scugog Island, Mr. Goose says employees at his Smoke Shop go a step further by demanding to see a status card before allowing customers to purchase allocation cigarettes due to the high percentage of non-First Nations visitors. As for those looking to save some money by buying the First Nations manufactured smokes, Mr.

Goose simply shrugs his shoulders. Goose, stressing all appropriate duty and taxes are paid on the smokes he sells. While the prices at reserve retailers are remarkably different, those selling smokes on First Nations lands must still adhere to regulations under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act: No one under 19 can buy tobacco and products cannot be displayed or promoted.

There are, however, no rules when it comes to the number of cigarettes someone can purchase or how much they must be sold for. There are cigarettes in a carton. That number has steadily crept up over the past three years: Blodgett, on on-reserve and off-reserve populations of First Nations adults as reported yearly by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada as well as the smoking patterns of First Nations individuals.

Those patterns are determined by data provided by Statistics Canada. The ministry also takes into account special events held on First Nations lands.

Each year, one of the biggest events held on Scugog Island is the annual pow wow, hosted by the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation. According to the federal government, the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation had a registered population of people, as of the end of August. Of those, 47 are listed as living on the Scugog Island reserve.

But the hottest sale items these days, said Mr. Gotthelf, are lottery tickets. He shakes his head when asked about the price difference between his store and the Smoke Shack. The chasm between carton costs is even more remarkable. Gotthelf sprints away to grab a receipt from his most recent bulk purchase of cartons. The Ministry of Finance says both the Province and First Nations communities are responsible for ensuring only First Nations customers purchase cigarettes. How often the Province keeps tabs on smoking enthusiasts, however, is not for the public to know, said Mr.

Blodgett, the finance ministry spokesman, when asked specifically about enforcement. Blodgett, includes a range of audit, investigation and on-site inspections of tobacco inventories at retail outlets.

Vehicles can be stopped anywhere in Ontario -- on First Nations reserves or off. There are eight businesses, including three or four gas stations that sell smokes in Alderville, which has a First Nations population of about Another or so members live off the First Nations lands.

One compact car sits stopped at a drive-through window of one smoke shack while at another location, just down the road, an advertisement tries to entice customers: On Roseneath Landing Road there are two more retailers -- a large store and another shack. Business is brisk on a recent weekday, based on observations from a mid-day scouting trip at the Dream Catcher convenience store.

In one instance, a man walks in and less than two minutes later emerges with a clear bag of cigarettes. Across Rice Lake, on the northern shores, sits the Hiawatha First Nation, home to a population of about , according to federal government documents.

One popular place -- the Wolf Run Smoke Shop -- is serving customers, sometimes three or four in a row at the drive-through, as quickly as it can.

IN , the Ministry of Finance seized That figure dropped sharply the next year, , when ministry officials seized A breakdown of where those penalties were imposed is not available. Simply, whatever tax they avoided purchasing at the time of purchase will be applied, threefold. Offence charges are managed through the provincial court system. The Tobacco Tax Act also provides for administrative monetary penalties that are similarly structured, to increase the fine amounts for possession of larger quantities.

Information about penalties assessed is confidential tax information. The Scugog Island First Nation, however, does not interpret the rules that way. No fines or suspensions have ever been levied against the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation, she added.

Those are large numbers, but not high enough in the big picture for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. The CTF, explained Ms. Malcolm, teamed up with an American think tank called the Reason Foundation which was interested in carrying out a case study that delved into the federal excise tobacco cuts by the Jean Chretien Liberal government in the s. Malcolm, citing RCMP documents and studies.

Malcolm, does not always lead to more money in government coffers. The province of Quebec, continued the Ontario CTF director, has taken a much harder line with contraband smokes and those efforts are showing results. As for the rules that allow First Nations smokers to avoid provincial tariffs while others must pay taxes, Ms. Malcolm just shook her head. Malcolm, is not a sound strategy. Rinaldi, pointing to similar contraband concerns in New York State. Rinaldi said he spoke to Chief James Marsden in recent years to discuss a number of issues.

Rinaldi, citing cases of contraband consumers being pulled over by OPP officers outside of reserve boundaries and subsequently having their tobacco products seized. The ability for cops to search vehicles, without a warrant under the tobacco act, is working, said Mr. In the same breath, he insisted that Ontario can still balance its books by To do that, said the finance minister, the Province promises a renewed push to clamp down on contraband tobacco. Blodgett, the finance ministry spokesman, in another e-mailed response.

Blodgett, the Liberal government intends to establish oversight of raw leaf tobacco in the province effective Jan. Another step the Province will take, continued Mr. Blodgett, is to launch a formal review of the First Nations cigarette allocation system in early He also knows the Province turns a blind eye, for the most part, towards those infractions. Yes, they are. Historically, said Mr. Over time, however, Mr.

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