TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - May 1, 2014) - Ontario's convenience store retailers are disappointed with the Ontario government's decision to raise provincial tobacco taxes as part of the 2014 budget, warning that efforts to reduce contraband tobacco will be negated by this tax increase.
"Premier Wynne and Minister Sousa are fuelling organized crime with what is nothing more than a quick tax grab," said Dave Bryans, CEO of the Ontario Convenience Stores Association (OCSA). "I am doubtful they will ever reach projected revenue targets, as tax dollars will go directly into the hands of criminals."
Contraband tobacco is sold without mandated health warnings and without age verification checks, to anyone who is willing to buy. The RCMP estimates that over 70 organized crime groups and gangs are affiliated with the illegal tobacco trade. Increased taxes and regulations drive the tobacco market underground, meaning these products are both more affordable and accessible to youth.
"I play by the rules and check for ID when asked for tobacco products in my store," said Terry Yaldo, owner of Midway Convenience Store in Windsor. "This tax increase punishes law-abiding retailers and supports the illegal tobacco market, which is driving us out of business."
Prior to the Ontario budget, retailers presented 20,000 signed postcards to Premier Kathleen Wynne asking that provincial tobacco taxes not be raised. This is in addition to motions passed by over 80 municipalities since 2012, asking the provincial government to do more to correct illegal tobacco.
"The commitments made to address contraband tobacco feel empty, particularly given that we've seen these measures announced before," reminded Bryans. "The decision to raise tobacco taxes will push consumers to the black market and support organized crime in the process. This is an extremely short-sighted decision that threatens small business across this province."
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.