Western Convenience Stores Association

Western Convenience Stores Association

November 17, 2015 10:57 ET

Illegal Tobacco Widely Available Across Manitoba

Rates as high as 34% found near public buildings and schools

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA--(Marketwired - Nov. 17, 2015) - Manitoba convenience store retailers are concerned following the release of a study showing high rates of illegal tobacco in communities across Manitoba.

The Western Convenience Stores Association commissioned a contraband tobacco study which examined discarded cigarette butts at 30 sites throughout Manitoba to determine if illegal (contraband) cigarettes were being purchased and smoked. Samples were gathered between September 20th and October 5th, 2015. The survey found illegal tobacco usage rates as high as 34% at some locations. The average rate of illegal tobacco use at sites tested across Manitoba was 12.7%.

"The availability of illegal tobacco is clearly a problem in Manitoba," said Andrew Klukas, President of the Western Convenience Stores Association (WCSA). "Contraband tobacco is being used in schools and communities across the province."

Contraband tobacco is sold without mandated health warnings on packages and without age-verification checks. Increased taxes and regulations 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 local safety.

Elmwood High School in Winnipeg had the highest an illegal tobacco usage rate at 34%; the Brandon Royal Canadian Legion (Branch 3) came in second at 21.3%; and Steinbach City Hall ranked third at 21%. The City of Steinbach had the highest average in the province with a rate of 15.7% at the six sites tested.

When compared to the other western Canadian provinces, Manitoba's rate of illegal tobacco near high schools is troubling. Manitoba schools consistently rank higher than their western counterparts - there is no Manitoba school in the bottom 10 of all 44 schools surveyed and Elmwood High School (Winnipeg) had the highest rate of all schools.

"Illegal tobacco is sold without proper taxation making its rock bottom pricing appealing to young people," says Klukas. "Premier Selinger and his government need to address this issue."

The WCSA asks the Manitoba government to be more proactive when it comes to illegal tobacco. Manitoba needs update its Tobacco Tax Act to reflect the new reality of illegal tobacco in the province. Manitoba also needs to dedicate additional resources to revenue enforcement officials.


The WCSA is a not-for-profit trade association that represents the interests of over 850 Manitoba convenience store retailers and gas stations. These retailers employ more than 7,000 people and annually contribute over $200 million in retail sales taxes to provincial revenues. 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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