Convenience Store Operators Uniting to Fight Contraband Tobacco Problem Across Canada
ETOBICOKE, ON – Members of the Ontario Korean Businessman’s Association (OKBA) and their national partner association, the United Korean Commerce & Industry Association of Canada (UKCIA), are combining resources to fight the negative impact illegal contraband tobacco has on both government and small businesses.
While smoking rates continue to decline, the presence of cheap unregulated contraband tobacco has spread into western Canada with disastrous results for small businesses. Convenience store owners in Ontario who have long been demanding government get tougher with contraband traffickers are now planning on helping their industry colleagues in BC and Alberta to raise awareness to their respective provincial governments.
“Everyone agrees that the fewer people who smoke, the better. Licensed tobacco retailers including our members take the responsibility of selling a highly restrictive product like tobacco very seriously”, said spokesperson Mr. Kenny Shim, OKBA President. “However, we continually see how easy it is for customers to purchase unregulated and untaxed cigarettes, often right out in front of our stores. Contraband is killing our businesses, and robbing the government of billions in tax dollars.”
The OKBA has been lobbying the provincial government in Ontario for more than a decade on the issue of contraband tobacco. Now, their counterparts out west are seeing illegal tobacco shipped from Ontario make its way to small towns and communities everywhere. Earlier this year British Columbia elected to add 7% GST to tobacco sales, which pushed the total tax per pack of cigarettes to $6.50; the highest level in Canada. A carton of cigarettes sold in a convenience store can sell for as much as $170. In comparison, contraband tobacco is sold for as little as $20 or less for the same quantity.
Added Shim, “In Ontario we have seen hundreds of our members close their stores permanently because of contraband tobacco. It’s not just the lost sales of tobacco, but other items customers don’t buy when they no longer come into our stores. Now our colleagues in BC and Alberta are suddenly seeing it critically impact them as well and they are desperate for government to listen to their concerns. We plan on sharing all our experience and knowledge to help them get their message out.”
Convenience store owners from Western Canada will be meeting with their Ontario counterparts from the OKBA in early October to learn from their experience and ongoing advocacy efforts with the government.
The UKCIA represents 500+ independent convenience store owners across Western Canada and the OKBA represents over 900 stores in Ontario. The OKBA has successfully run an advocacy and awareness campaign called “Save Our Stores” to help tell its story.
Source: United Korean Canadian Industry Association (UKCIA)
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