Convenience stores in London, Ontario, told by provincial authorities not to display posters aimed at educating public about negative effect that contraband cigarettes have on businesses, the community
September 29, 2011
– London convenience stores have been told by provincial authorities they can't display posters in their stores aimed at educating the public about the negative effect contraband cigarettes have on businesses and the community. Authorities citing Smoke Free Ontario Act regulations that prohibit tobacco promotions inside stores have ordered retailers to remove all contraband tobacco educational posters from local convenience stores.
"The Smoke Free Ontario Act is an important public health law that is strongly supported by Ontarians. As retailers, we work diligently to comply with its rules every day," said Dave Bryans, President of the Ontario Convenience Stores Association. "But regulations meant to stop tobacco promotion have muzzled retailers and are preventing them from educating their community about the serious problem of contraband tobacco. This isn't right and isn't fair. No government law should stop small businesses from being able to speak freely about an issue - especially during an election."
The posters depicted a number of scenes indicative of the contraband tobacco epidemic: a closed convenience store; a school setting where students frequently have contraband tobacco; vermin, as RCMP lab tests have shown evidence of feces in contraband cigarettes; and, drug syringes as police indicate many contraband tobacco smugglers also trade in drugs. Convenience stores are complying with the government order to remove the posters.
"I've spoken to over 2,000 convenience store retailers over the past two years and many have all but given up hope the Ontario government will fix the problem," said Angie Kim, Retailer Liaison for the Ontario Convenience Stores Association. "For these stores, the contraband issue is not about profits, it's about the ability of these families to pay the mortgage and save enough to send their kids to university."
Illegal cigarettes remain a huge problem in Ontario with smugglers earning millions in profits which they often use to finance other, more serious criminal activities. Contraband smugglers freely sell these cigarettes for pocket-change, often to kids, without respecting any of the other laws and regulations under which legal retailers operate.
Convenience store retailers have been outspoken on the issue of contraband tobacco since 2005. Over the past several years, over 1,000 convenience stores have gone out of business, in large part due to the effects of the illegal contraband market on these law-abiding retailers.
Image with caption: "The Ontario government has used a law prohibiting tobacco promotion to ban convenience store posters aimed at educating the public about the issue of tobacco smuggling during the election. Posters like this one highlighted the negative effect contraband cigarettes have on businesses and the community.