TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - March 6, 2014) - In advance of the 2014 Budget, Ontario retailers are launching the "Act Now" campaign against illegal tobacco. This campaign asks the Ontario government to follow through on its promises to address illegal tobacco, and to maintain the current provincial tobacco tax rate.
"Following the recent increase in the federal excise tax on tobacco products, Ontario is dangerously close to a level of taxation that would drive the market underground," says Dave Bryans, CEO of the Ontario Convenience Stores Association (OCSA).
"Increased taxes on tobacco products punish law-abiding retailers and put small businesses across this province at risk," says Terry Yaldo, owner of Midway Convenience Store in Windsor.
The OCSA's recent contraband tobacco study examined discarded cigarette butts at 136 sites across the province to determine if they were illegal (contraband) cigarettes. The results were released at Queen's Park in December 2013 and found illegal tobacco usage rates as high as 46.6% at various locations across the province. The provincial average of illegal tobacco usage throughout Ontario was 21%.
"We serve on the frontlines every day, and directly feel the impact of rising contraband tobacco numbers," adds Don Cha of the Ontario Korean Businessmens' Association (OKBA).
The 2013 Ontario budget featured measures that would include increased fines for those convicted of illegal tobacco offenses, forfeiture of illegal seized tobacco items and strengthening the provisions to improve the Tobacco Tax Act.
"The Government of Ontario has made promises to combat the issue of contraband tobacco, but we have yet to see any action," concludes Bryans. "Retailers and the public are upset and it is time for the Government to act now and address this problem."