TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - April 30, 2014) - Ontario's convenience store retailers are expressing concern over media reports suggesting a provincial tax hike on tobacco products as part of the 2014 Budget.
"If accurate, these reports are extremely troubling," said Dave Bryans, CEO of the Ontario Convenience Stores Association (OCSA). "This is not a tax increase that will go unnoticed by Ontario's small businesses or by the Ontario public, despite what the Premier and Finance Minister may believe."
Prior to the budget, the OCSA delivered 20,000 signed postcards addressed to Premier Wynne, asking that the Government not increase taxes on tobacco products, because of the impact this will have on community safety. This is in addition to motions passed by over 80 municipal councils, asking the provincial government to do more to correct illegal (contraband) tobacco.
Contraband tobacco is sold without mandated health warnings and without age verification checks, to anyone willing to buy. Increased taxes drive the tobacco market underground, meaning these products are both more affordable and more accessible to youth. A recent study conducted by the OCSA found contraband tobacco use as high as 30% in some municipalities across the province.
"The choice to increase tobacco taxes would ignore the thousands of Ontarians who have voiced their concerns over the impact that contraband tobacco and organized crime has on their community," said Bryans. "A quick tax grab off of the backs of small businesses should not outweigh keeping our communities safe."
The OCSA also reminds the government that, when other jurisdictions with a contraband tobacco problem raised tobacco taxes, rarely have they achieved projected revenue targets. "If the government really wanted to raise revenue, it should focus on recouping the hundreds of millions of dollars it loses each and every year to contraband tobacco, rather than making the problem worse with a tax increase," said Bryans.
"For the last three years, the Ontario government has promised to address illegal tobacco, and we have seen no action," said Bryans. "It's time for this government to acknowledge there is a real problem with contraband tobacco in this province. A tax increase would send us ten steps backward."
ABOUT THE OCSA
The Ontario Convenience Stores Association (OCSA) represents more than 7,000 convenience store operators throughout the province who are committed to Responsible Community Retailing. More than 3 million people visit convenience stores in communities across Ontario every day.