The latest study of cigarette butts collected around high schools in Ontario and Quebec suggests more and more teens are buying their smokes on the black market.
The study commissioned by the Canadian Convenience Stores Association found 30 per cent of butts gathered outside Ontario high schools were contraband, up from 26 per cent last year.
The numbers were even higher in Quebec, where 45 per cent of the cigarette butts collected near high schools were contraband, up nine percentage points from 2008.
The figures for both provinces are the highest recorded since the studies near school yards were first done in 2007.
The National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco, which co-sponsored the study, says the figures show teens are increasingly the target of criminals who sell illegal cigarettes.
It says the wide availability of contraband cigarettes is short-circuiting the government’s anti-smoking efforts.
The study examined nearly 20,000 cigarette butts collected outside 110 Ontario high schools and 14,000 butts found outside 75 Quebec high schools.
The RCMP say most of the illegal cigarettes sold are smuggled into Canada though the Akwesasne reserve, which straddles the Canada-U.S. border near Cornwall, Ont.