Convenience store owners want teens forced to butt out
By BETH JOHNSTON, SUN MEDIA
A growing number of Canadian teens are smoking illegal cigarettes and convenience store owners are calling on the government to fix the problem.
"Trunks are being opened and 16-year-olds are being handed tobacco and nobody has the political will to do anything about it," said Dave Bryans, president of the Canadian Convenience Store Association. "It should be a huge concern."
The association commissioned a study which collected butts outside 155 Ontario and Quebec high schools, and determined 23% of teen smokers in Ottawa, 26% in Ontario and 36% in Quebec are puffing on contraband cigarettes.
"The government has even said some of these cigarettes contain feces and mould, but nobody seems to care," Bryans said.
Last month, the Canada Revenue Agency announced it will replace the plastic tear-tape around cigarette packages with a new excise duty stamp with security features that are harder to counterfeit.
$1 PER PACK
But the new stamp won't do anything to stop the "baggies" of smokes being peddled at high schools, malls and flea markets.
Illegally imported from the U.S. and China, contraband smokes are often sold for $1 a pack as opposed to $8 a pack.
"We feel proud that we're not allowing kids to get these type of products, but everybody around us is ignoring this, so we've called on the federal politicians during this election to support a ban to make it illegal for anyone under 19 to possess, consume or purchase tobacco products," he said.
"It's almost shocking when you look at some areas."
The study was done by independent research company Arcus Group. Researchers collected 22,498 cigarette butts from Ontario and Quebec high schools.
They picked up 1,429 butts from 10 Ottawa high schools, 23% of which were illegal.
That's discouraging, said Chris Wilcox, general manager of Quickie Convenience stores. While government has been "piling on" legislation for legitimate tobacco retailers, kids have been going behind their backs to get them cheap and illegal.
"Despite governments' best efforts to keep cigarettes out of kids' hands, kids are getting them easier than ever," Wilcox said. "They're attacking the wrong target."