Convenience store retailers in Nova Scotia say that the illegal sale of tobacco products undermines the health, safety and well-being of communities, and that illegal sales in the province are too high.
In a study released by the Atlantic Convenience Stores Association, illegal cigarettes accounted for 20 per cent of almost 4,000 cigarette ends collected from 29 sites across Nova Scotia in June and analyzed. The presence of illegal cigarettes ranged from 6.5 per cent to 33.8 per cent at the sites tested.
Overall findings are considered to be accurate within plus or minus 3.5 percentage points 19 times out of 20.
“The findings are consistent with previous studies we commissioned in 2014 and 2015,” says association president Mike Hammoud. “These studies are high level estimates, but they are consistent year-over-year and they’re dramatically higher than the 5 per cent to 10 per cent estimate recently reported by the provincial government.”
Hammoud says that both tobacco manufacturers and wholesalers also question the government’s estimate as well. And while the ACSA has asked provincial government representatives for details on their estimate, no information has ever been provided.
“Every law-abiding person, both smokers and non-smokers, should be concerned when illegal cigarettes averaged 26 per cent of the samples taken from three schools in the study,” says Anne Kothawala, president of the National Convenience Stores Distributors Association, whose membership includes businesses who wholesale and distribute merchandise to convenience stores in Nova Scotia.
The research work was done by NIRIC Analytics, an independent, Montreal-based research firm who has developed a specialized cigarette end collection and analysis technique. The company has completed more than 30 of these studies to date across Canada.
Both distributors and convenience store retailers continue to encourage the provincial government to get tougher with criminals selling illegal cigarettes.
“The provincial government here has recently said that they have adequate resources to deal with the illegal tobacco situation,” says Hammoud. “We respectfully disagree. Just look next door at what New Brunswick has done with their Contraband Enforcement Unit and the positive impact it’s having on illegal trafficking.”
“Getting tougher on illegal tobacco is a win-win from our perspective,” says Rebecca Lambe, who owns and operates Mom’s Country Market in Cole Harbour. “Youth access to cigarettes will be far more difficult because of reduced supply and higher cost, while adults have the choice of either quitting or buying legal products. If they buy legal products, then the government is going to collect more tax revenue.”