Western Convenience Stores Association

Western Convenience Stores Association

February 11, 2015 13:25 ET

B.C. Retailers Caution Against Tax Increase, Encourage Province to Target Illegal Tobacco Market

VICTORIA, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Feb. 11, 2015) - The Western Convenience Stores Association (WCSA) is cautioning Minister De Jong and the Clark government against including a tobacco tax increase in next week's provincial budget.

"If the B.C government wants to keep our communities safe and keep tobacco out of the hands of youth, they will not raise taxes in the budget next week." says Andrew Klukas, President of the WCSA. "We are hopeful they will instead allocate additional resources to help recoup lost government revenue as an increase will continue to drive customers to the underground market."

The WCSA commissioned a contraband tobacco study, which examined discarded cigarette butts at 48 sites throughout British Columbia to determine if they were illegal (contraband) cigarettes. The study took place in 2014 and found illegal tobacco usage rates as high as 51.6%. The average rate of illegal tobacco use at tested sites was just over 17%.

The current tobacco tax rate has made B.C more attractive to tobacco traffickers who have ensured widespread distribution throughout the province.

Contraband tobacco is sold without mandated health warnings on packages and without age-verification checks. In the absence of increased enforcement measures, increased taxes and regulations drive the tobacco market underground, meaning these products are both more affordable and accessible to youth.

The WCSA's pre-budget submission emphasized the need for changes in the tobacco tax laws, proactive anti-contraband legislation and additional resources for the Ministry of Finance Revenue Enforcement Division.

"We want to work with the Government of British Columbia to prevent additional growth in the illicit market," emphasized Klukas. "Tax increases have long term consequences for law enforcement, communities and our small business retailers."

ABOUT THE WCSA

The WCSA is a not-for-profit trade association that represents the interests of over 7,000 convenience store retailers operating throughout Western Canada. These retailers employ more than 50,000 people and contribute over $18 billion in sales to local economies. 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.

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