Convenience Stores Associations Warns Manitoba Premier - Government tolerance of one illegal smoke shack will open the "flood gates" to many more

OAKVILLE, ON, Nov. 10, 2011 /CNW/ - Following the official opening of the province's first illegal smoke shack by the Dakota First Nations near Pipestone, Manitoba, the Canadian and Western Convenience Stores Associations (CCSA & WCSA) have called upon Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger to enforce current laws and avoid setting a dangerous precedent in the province with respect to the sale of contraband tobacco.

"If the Manitoba government allows just one illegal smoke shack to open and operate, 50 will follow suit leading to increased crime, higher tobacco consumption among minors, lost revenue for the province and the closure of countless legal convenience stores as has happened in Ontario and Québec. We do not believe that this is a trend that Manitobans support," said Michel Gadbois, the CCSA's Senior Vice-President.

According to the RCMP, close to 300 illegal smoke shacks currently operate in Québec and Ontario selling goods produced in 50 illegal manufacturing plants. All plants have operated illegally for the past decade without any interference from the government.  These manufacturers and smoke shacks sell a large majority of their tobacco products to non-natives who avoid the tobacco taxes and save up to 75 per cent on the legal price sold in convenience stores.  They have also consistently disregarded tobacco control regulations by selling to minors.

"We are certainly sympathetic to Natives rights, but not at the mercy of the hard-working and law-abiding convenience store owners who follow strict tobacco regulations and remit taxes but simply cannot compete with the illegal trade of contraband tobacco," said Doug Hartl, Vice-Chair of the Western Convenience Stores Association (WCSA). "The government should step in immediately to either shut down the illegal smoke shack or ensure that the Dakota First Nations charge the taxes and respect all laws and regulations pertaining to tobacco" added Gadbois.

Since 2008, hundreds of convenience stores owners who have been in business for years have had to either close their stores or continue to struggle to survive simply because governments are not enforcing current laws. "It is absurd that we must beg governments to enforce their own laws, but sadly, that's how little attention is given today to the issue of contraband tobacco," concluded Mr. Gadbois.

About the CCSA
The CCSA represents the economic interests of more than 25,000 convenience stores across Canada (with 800 in Manitoba) who serve Canadians for all their daily needs. CCSA has developed a basic mission to promote corporate social responsibility and represent "Responsible Community Retailing" and have developed the We Expect ID world class age testing program for all employees in the channel. CCSA works to promote and foster professional business practices, standards and ethics throughout the C-Store industry and provides training, education and guidance to its members.

SOURCE Canadian Convenience Stores Association (CCSA)

For further information:

Dianna Eakins, CCSA - Cell: 905.630.4208 / Email: ccsaeakins@gmail.com

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Canadian Convenience Stores Association (CCSA)

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