SOURCE: Western Convenience Stores Association

Western Convenience Stores Association

November 15, 2016 09:00 ET

Illegal Tobacco Rate Holds Steady in British Columbia

Highest Rates Found on Universities, College Campuses

VANCOUVER, BC--(Marketwired - November 15, 2016) - Convenience store retailers are expressing deep frustration following the release of a study showing the rate of illegal tobacco has held steady in British Columbia.

The Western Convenience Stores Association (WCSA) commissioned its annual contraband tobacco study which examined discarded cigarette butts at 50 sites throughout B.C to determine if illegal (contraband) cigarettes were being purchased and smoked. Samples were gathered over a two-week period in September.

The average rate of contraband use at sites tested across B.C. was 14.7%, suggesting once again that illegal cigarettes are widely available across the province. The rate in 2015 was 14.9%.

"Our data shows that illegal tobacco is easily accessible at schools and on college and university campuses throughout the province," says Andrew Klukas, President of the WCSA. "Once a trafficking network and supply chain is established, tobacco can easily be swapped for illicit drugs and that should be of even greater concern to parents."

Contraband tobacco is sold without mandated health warnings on packages and without age-verification checks. Poor economic conditions, increased taxes and unintended consequences of regulations drive the tobacco market underground, making these products more affordable and accessible to youth. According to the RCMP, illegal tobacco is also linked with organized crime, thereby impacting public safety.

Community safety is a major issue in this election year and retail members of the WCSA are encouraging the Clark government to act.

Vancouver, Richmond and Burnaby remain the highest cities in the province with rates of 27.5%, 24.5% and 23.1%, respectively. Notable sites were the University of British Columbia (46.2%), University of the Fraser Valley (28.9%), Vancouver Public Library (27%) and Hugh Boyd Secondary School (23.8%).

"The Clark government has to introduce tougher legislation and use existing resources, like the Guns and Gangs strategy, to combat trafficking of tobacco," adds Doug Hartl, a former RCMP officer and Chair of the WCSA board.

The WCSA calls on both the B.C Liberals and NDP to incorporate anti-contraband measures in their platforms as the province moves to an election in May 2017.


The WCSA is a not-for-profit trade association that represents the interests of over close to 3,000 British Columbia convenience store retailers and gas stations. These retailers employ over 25,000 people and annually collect well over $1 billion in tax revenue for governments. 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.

Location City Percentage of Contraband
University of British Columbia Vancouver 46.2%
Passport Canada Vancouver 29.8%
University of the Fraser Valley Chilliwack 28.9%
Worker's Compensation Board Richmond 28.2%
Vancouver Public Library Vancouver 27.0%
University of British Columbia (Okanagan) Kelowna 26.8%
Langara College Vancouver 24.0%
Hugh Boyd Secondary School Richmond 23.8%
Kelowna Service Canada Centre Kelowna 23.7%
Simon Fraser University Burnaby 23.1%

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