TORONTO, Nov. 24, 2014 /CNW/ - Kathleen Wynne's Liberal government today announced a hastily introduced, and poorly thought out, piece of legislation (Making Healthier Choices Act, 2014 ) that includes a ban on menthol cigarettes. Members of the 1500+ strong Ontario Koreans Businessmen's Association (OKBA), who make up the majority of independent convenience store retailers in the province, are concerned that such a ban will only serve to further grow the contraband tobacco market, and hurt small businesses in Ontario. With approximately 40% of all tobacco being consumed in Ontario coming from the illicit market, the ban of yet another currently long-standing legal product will only lead to increased profits for illegal traffickers, and harder times for law abiding family businesses.
"We were happy when we heard Finance Minister Charles Sousa was finally beginning to acknowledge the huge problems with organized crime and contraband tobacco earlier this month during the government's Fall Economic Statement", states Don Cha, GM of the OKBA. "But now, only a few shorts days later, another Minister introduces a ban on all flavoured tobacco that will hand another 5-6% of the market to organized crime. It makes no sense!" added Mr. Cha.
Included in the ban are menthol flavoured cigarettes, which currently make up around 5% of the market, while the other flavoured products named in the legislation represent a further 1% of the market. In banning all these products, the government of Ontario will create a monopoly for illegal traffickers and manufacturers; which according to the RCMP, includes up to 175 organized crime groups.
"Independent store owners, including OKBA members, take their responsibility of selling legal tobacco very seriously. Our members follow the law and routinely check the ID of customers to make sure tobacco products of any kind are not sold to minors. The same cannot be said for those running the illegal trade," concluded Mr. Cha.
Since 2008 close to 500 OKBA members have closed their stores as result of government inaction on contraband tobacco in Ontario. While the federal government and other provincial governments, most notably Quebec, have introduced hard-hitting measures to combat the illicit trade, Ontario continues to be all talk and no action. Banning menthol flavoured cigarettes, which have been legally available for 80 years in Ontario, has nothing to do with curbing youth smoking. Instead, it will only enhance the already lucrative profits enjoyed by black market traffickers, and cost the government millions more in lost tax revenue.
Founded in 1973, the OKBA is a not profit association representing 1500 independent business owners of Korean descent, in hundreds of communities across Ontario.
SOURCE: Ontario Korean's Businessmen's Association
For further information: Please contact Don Cha - [email protected], General Manager of the OKBA