Western Convenience Stores Association

Western Convenience Stores Association

October 01, 2015 15:20 ET

With Menthol Ban Fully in Place, Alberta Retailers Concerned About Illegal Tobacco

EDMONTON, ALBERTA--(Marketwired - Oct. 1, 2015) - Alberta retailers and their customers will now feel the full impact of the government's menthol tobacco ban as it comes into force today.

Retailers were forced to clear out their shelves and adult customers will have to seek their products in neighboring provinces or worse, in the illegal market.

"We remain concerned that banning this product outright and in such a short time span will lead to a spike in the illegal market," says Andrew Klukas, President of the Western Convenience Stores Association (WCSA). "From our studies, we are aware of at least 35 contraband menthol products available from Central Canada and if customers are seeking alternative channels, Alberta will become an attractive market for illegal supply."

The decision to ban menthol products was made by cabinet behind closed doors, apparently with little awareness around the illicit tobacco market.

"We remain even more concerned that Minister Hoffman and others seem to be convinced contraband is not an issue in this province, although we know firsthand that it is," adds Klukas.

The WCSA released a contraband tobacco study in 2014 that assessed various sites in Alberta. The study found an average rate of almost 10% at tested sites.

The Association will release an updated contraband study in the coming weeks which it will share with the Alberta government in advance of the provincial budget, along with its pre-budget asks.

The WCSA is recommending a variety of measures in the upcoming provincial budget, including increased funding for illicit tobacco enforcement to assist the Alberta government in recouping lost tax revenue. They are also recommending proactive contraband legislation that would include amendments to the Tobacco Tax Act.

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