Western Convenience Stores Association

Western Convenience Stores Association

December 08, 2015 11:28 ET

Saskatchewan has Lowest Illegal Tobacco Rate

Less regulation contributes to safer communities

REGINA, SASKATCHEWAN--(Marketwired - Dec. 8, 2015) - Saskatchewan convenience store retailers are praising the Government of Saskatchewan following the release of a study showing the province has the lowest rate of illegal tobacco in western Canada.

The Western Convenience Stores Association commissioned a contraband tobacco study which examined discarded cigarette butts at 30 sites throughout Saskatchewan to determine if illegal (contraband) cigarettes were being purchased and smoked. Samples were gathered between September 20th and October 10th, 2015.

The average rate of illegal tobacco use at sites tested across Saskatchewan was 9.5%. In British Columbia the rate was 15%; in Manitoba the rate was 12.7%; and in Alberta it was 9.8%.

"Saskatchewan has a relatively low tobacco tax rate and it does not regulate flavoured tobacco," said Andrew Klukas, President of the Western Convenience Stores Association (WCSA). "We believe these two factors are helping to keep the illegal tobacco rate lower in Saskatchewan than in other western provinces."

"We know from our work in other provinces that increasing tax rates and banning menthol products opens the door to the black market," said Klukas. "Saskatchewan's clear regulatory, tax and enforcement framework is much easier for consumers to understand and makes the purchase of illegal cigarettes from criminals generally less appealing."

Saskatchewan's rate was also much lower in high schools compared to other provinces. The WCSA sampled more high schools in Saskatchewan (per capita) than any other western province. The average in Saskatchewan was 6.3% illegal tobacco rate. High schools in Saskatchewan had consistently lower scores than in all other provinces - with the highest being Michael A. Riffel High School (Regina) at 12.4%.

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.

"We must continue to be vigilant," said Klukas. "It's clear the illegal tobacco trade is growing across the West and Saskatchewan should consider fine-tuning their enforcement provisions."

ABOUT THE WCSA

The WCSA is a not-for-profit trade association that represents the interests of over 1000 Saskatchewan 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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