Four people face charges after provincial authorities say they seized 135,000 cigarettes bought at native smoke shops.

The province says the cigarettes are illegal because purchasers pay no taxes on them to the government.

The four were charged as part of an ongoing enforcement operation begun by the Ontario Ministry of Revenue last year to deal with the growth of a half-a-dozen smoke shops along Highway 6, between Caledonia and Hagersville. The ministry is performing the operations with the help of the Ontario Provincial Police.

The four were charged during an operation on Feb. 25, March 2 and March 4 in which 25 vehicles were stopped along the highway. They face charges under the Tobacco Tax Act and will appear in Cayuga court.

The smoke shops, which sprang up along the highway in the wake of the Douglas Creek Estates land claim dispute in 2006, are still operating, but ministry spokesperson Scott Blodgett believed the enforcement operation was working.

"We certainly feel it's making a difference." Confiscated cigarettes are destroyed.

A Hamilton man last October was fined more than $3,000 after he pleaded guilty to being in possession of 16,800 illegal cigarettes. An Etobicoke woman was fined more than $900 after she was caught with 2,400 illegal cigarettes.

dnolan@thespec.com 

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