Contraband tobacco usage rates as high as 51.6% at some communities in British Columbia, according to new study; average rate of illegal tobacco use at tested sites in province at 17%

VANCOUVER, British Columbia , July 9, 2014 (press release) – B.C convenience store retailers are concerned following the release of a study showing shocking rates of illegal tobacco in communities across the province.

The Western Convenience Store Association commissioned a contraband tobacco study, which examined discarded cigarette butts at 48 sites throughout British Columbia to determine if they were illegal (contraband) cigarettes. The study took place between April 27th and May 26th and found illegal tobacco usage rates as high as 51.6% at some locations. The average rate of illegal tobacco use at tested sites was 17%.

"What is the most shocking about these figures is that they are coming from universities, colleges and high schools," said Andrew Klukas, President of the Western Convenience Stores Association (WCSA). "Contraband tobacco is infiltrating our schools and this is a major problem."

Contraband tobacco is sold without mandated health warnings on packages and without age-verification checks. Increased taxes and regulations drive the tobacco market underground, meaning these products are both more affordable and accessible to youth. Illegal tobacco is also linked with organized crime according to the RCMP.

Notable figures in the study included Simon Fraser University with an illegal tobacco usage rate of 51.6%; the University of British Columbia with 46.8%; Langara College at 31.7%; Tamanawis Secondary School in Surrey at 24.1%; and the Prince Rupert City Hall at 23.5%.

"Illegal tobacco is sold without proper taxation making its rock bottom pricing appealing to young people," says Klukas. "What was once a problem solely in Central Canada has made its way throughout the West and into our communities in B.C."

The WCSA is working with the B.C government by asking them to address contraband through proactive legislation and by allocating additional resources for enforcement. The Association is also asking the province to consult further with retailers on this public safety issue, and work with all levels of government to address Canada's illegal tobacco problem.

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