Western Convenience Stores Association

Western Convenience Stores Association

October 28, 2015 18:00 ET

B.C. Illegal Tobacco Rate Remains Highest in Western Canada

Rates highest in Surrey, Vancouver and Richmond

VICTORIA, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Oct. 28, 2015) - One year later, illegal tobacco is still high in British Columbia with a rate 50% higher than its neighbouring province of Alberta.

The Western Convenience Stores Association (WCSA) commissioned a follow up contraband tobacco study which examined discarded cigarette butts at 44 sites throughout B.C to determine the rate of illegal (contraband) tobacco. The average rate of use at tested sites was 14.9% and samples were gathered throughout September of 2015.

"It is troubling that no matter where you live in B.C, you can purchase and consume illegal cigarettes," said Andrew Klukas, President of the WCSA. "Contraband tobacco is consistently available in schools and in communities across the province, one year after our first study."

Illicit tobacco is sold without mandated health warnings on packages and without age-verification checks. Increased taxes, regulations and product bans drive the tobacco market underground, meaning these products are both more affordable and accessible to youth. According to the RCMP, illegal tobacco is also linked with organized crime, thereby impacting community safety.

The illegal tobacco rate remained strongest in high schools. The average illegal tobacco rate around tested B.C schools was 15.5%, the highest in Western Canada. The lowest was 9.9% at Victoria High School and the highest found at Tamanawis Secondary School with a whopping rate of 19.7%. What was also disturbing was a consumption rate of 25.2% at the Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace.

"Convenience store owners are very concerned about the increased access of these tobacco products to youth," said Klukas. "Cheap, illegal tobacco is often sold out of the back of cars where no one ever asks for identification or has a care for the safety of students."

The location with the highest illegal tobacco rate was outside the Passport Canada Building in Vancouver with a rate of 38.9%.

The WCSA has asked the B.C government to increase resources to the Ministry of Finance enforcement officials as well as introduce proactive anti-contraband legislation in 2016.

ABOUT THE WCSA

The WCSA is a not-for-profit trade association that represents the interests of over 2,700 B.C convenience store retailers. These retailers employ more than 20,000 people and represent $7 billion in annual sales. Its mission is to foster the success of the convenience store industry in Western Canada by representing the best interests of its members and the communities they serve.

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