Convenience Stores Warn Government Not to Create Opportunity for Black Market Vaping Products to Flourish like Contraband Cigarettes
TORONTO, Dec. 21, 2020 /CNW/ - The Ontario Korean Businessman's Association (OKBA) and its national partner association, the United Korean Commerce & Industry Association of Canada (UKCIA), are disappointed in the federal government's proposal announced last Friday to decrease nicotine levels in vaping products to as low as 20mg/ml. The announcement once again indicates government's lack of understanding that vaping is proven to be a less harmful alternative to cigarettes.
The OKBA and UKCIA represent more than 2000 independent convenience store operators across the country. Licensed tobacco retailers have witnessed the successful transition many smokers have made from tobacco to vaping and have heard countless stories about the positive impacts of vaping for smokers. Reducing nicotine levels to a ceiling as low as 20mg/ml will not be attractive enough for smokers to switch, and will inevitably keep more people smoking cigarettes, which the government knows is more harmful than vaping.
The industry is also very concerned about what increased regulation will do for an already thriving black market of illegal tobacco traffickers. The contraband tobacco industry has exploded over the last decade due to high government taxation policies and ever-increasing regulations on legal products. This thriving illegal trade costs government billions in lost tax revenue, hurts small business by robbing them of sales, and makes it easier for people, including youth, to access unregulated and potentially harmful products. Government's suggestion that the proposed regulation will help reduce youth vaping is short-sighted, misguided and inaccurate.
"Our members do not sell to minors. We support the government's intention to make it less attractive for youth to start vaping, however these proposals will only keep more people smoking cigarettes or worse, drive more vaping products to be available through illegal channels", said store owner and UKCIA Chief Operating Officer Kenny Shim. "We have been on the frontlines of the contraband tobacco problem for more than a decade and have witnessed hundreds of our members close their stores permanently due to a thriving black market, run by organized crime. Unregulated contraband vaping products will increasingly become available in our communities if government continues to make decisions without a better understanding of consumer preferences and trends" Shim added.
OKBA and UKCIA members are also very surprised at the federal government's suggestion that an implementation period of 15 days would be sufficient for retailers to adopt new guidelines. Previous implementation periods lasted up to 6 months, which allowed stores to work with suppliers to transition products available for sale. During lockdowns associated with COVID-19 it is increasingly difficult for store owners to meet with supplier reps and make changes. This timeframe is simply impractical for convenience stores to follow.
The OKBA and UKCIA, along with their members from across Canada, will be actively involved in the upcoming consultation period for store owners. Collectively we support the government's desire to reduce tobacco consumption and prevent minors from vaping. Success in both these areas requires well thought out regulation that includes input from retailers who understand their customers and consumer trends.
SOURCE Ontario Korean Businessmen's Association
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