Western Convenience Stores Association

Western Convenience Stores Association

November 08, 2013 16:32 ET

Alberta Retailers Urge Inclusion of Measures to Combat Illegal Tobacco in New Provincial Laws

EDMONTON, ALBERTA--(Marketwired - Nov. 8, 2013) - On behalf of the over 2,000 convenience store retailers operating in Alberta, the Western Convenience Stores Association (WCSA) commends the Alberta government for its commitment to reducing tobacco use among underage youth, and limiting children's exposure to second-hand smoke. The Association and its retail members share these objectives.

However, the Association is also expressing concern over the plan to ban the sale of flavoured tobacco products, as it will result in the illegal sale of these products on the black market.

"Our members take pride in our responsible retailing mandate and we view ourselves as an active partner with the Alberta government in reducing youth consumption of tobacco products," said Andrew Klukas, President of the WCSA. "Our retailers receive extensive age-testing training to ensure youth do not have access to tobacco products. This training includes a comprehensive and free online program called We Expect I.D., which is offered by the WCSA to all retailers in Alberta."

A 2009 Health Canada report found that Alberta retailers were among the most likely to check for I.D. when selling tobacco products, with 98% refusing to sell tobacco products to those without valid proof of age.

"Our retailers recognize the important role we play in terms of preventing youth access, and under no circumstances do we condone the sale of tobacco products to minors," adds Klukas.

The Association is concerned that broad product bans will create illegal markets that negate the intent of the bans themselves.

"Our concern is that a ban on flavoured tobacco products will drive the trade underground," warns Klukas. "While the sale of legal tobacco products in our stores is heavily regulated, no controls exist in the illegal tobacco market, making the products more accessible to minors."

The unintended consequence of product bans is best evidenced by the results of the federal government's ban on little cigars. The RCMP saw a nearly 1000% increase in the number of little cigars seized following the implementation of the ban in 2010 (140,000 seized in 2010 vs. 1,164,000 in 2011).

"Any legislation that impacts the sale of legal tobacco must be complemented by deterrence and enforcement measures to address the illegal tobacco trade," stated Klukas. "The presence of contraband tobacco in Alberta will ultimately undermine the purpose of the legislation."

The WCSA is urging the Alberta government to consult further with small businesses in order to address the unintended consequences which may occur as a result of a flavour ban. Furthermore, the Association is also suggesting the adoption of legislation to increase resources to fight illegal tobacco, along with the introduction of increased penalties for those convicted of contraband tobacco offences.

About the WCSA

The WCSA is a not-for-profit trade association that represents the interests of over 6,500 convenience store retailers operating throughout Western Canada. These retailers employ more than 40,000 people and contribute over $10 billion in sales to the local economy. Our mission is to foster the success of the convenience store industry in Western Canada by representing the best interests of our members, and the communities they serve.

For more information visit www.thewcsa.com.

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