WINNIPEG, MANITOBA--(Marketwired - Feb. 13, 2014) - The Western Convenience Stores Association (WCSA) and its Manitoba retailers are urging the provincial government to maintain its current tobacco tax rates, following an increase in the federal excise tax on tobacco products.
"Increased taxes on tobacco products punishes law-abiding retailers, and do nothing to address the issue of contraband tobacco," said Andrew Klukas, President of the WCSA.
Contraband tobacco is sold without mandated health warnings and without age-verification checks, to anyone who is willing to buy. Increased taxes and regulations drive the tobacco market underground, meaning these products are both more affordable and accessible to youth.
In 2013, the WCSA commissioned a contraband tobacco study that found illegal tobacco usage rates ranging from 10% to 39% in various locations across the province. The study examined discarded cigarette butts at public buildings and local high schools to determine if they were legal or illegal (contraband) cigarettes.
"We have seen an increase in the presence of illegal tobacco throughout Manitoba-at local high schools for example- places where no one should be smoking, period," adds Klukas.
The recent federal budget had no additional contraband enforcement measures for Western Canada, leaving the provinces to fend for themselves.
As recent as February 7th, 2014, the Manitoba Finance Special Investigation Unit, assisted by RCMP officers, seized 858,800 illegal cigarettes-there is concern that the recent tax increase will spur additional growth in the illicit market.
Manitoba's retailers are urging the province not to follow suit with the federal government by hiking provincial taxes on tobacco products. Instead, the WCSA is asking that the provincial government to dedicate more resources to contraband enforcement and to introduce proactive contraband legislation.
ABOUT THE WCSA
The WCSA is a not-for-profit trade association that represents the interests of over 6,500 convenience store retailers operating throughout Western Canada. These retailers employ more than 40,000 people and contribute over $10 billion in sales to the local economy. 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.