Nearly one-quarter of the cigarettes smoked by Ottawa teens are contraband, says a new study released yesterday.

Commissioned by the National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco, the study found that 23 per cent of cigarette butts collected from around 11 high schools in Ottawa by a research company were from illegal cigarettes.

Contraband cigarettes are being smuggled into Canada and sold across the country, but due to geography, the problem is particularly prevalent in Ontario and Quebec, said coalition spokesman and retired Toronto police superintendent Gary Grant.

“And it’s a problem that’s not going away,” said Grant, who spoke in Ottawa yesterday.

Organized criminals “sell them from their garages and out of the backs of cars and trucks near schools and public playgrounds,” said Grant.

Because they’re cheap and easy to find, youth are a natural target, he said.

“We have to make people aware of this problem,” Grant said. “Even if they aren’t smokers themselves, they may be unaware that their children are smoking cigarettes that they bought from criminals.”

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