EDMONTON, ALBERTA--(Marketwired - Oct. 15, 2015) - Illegal tobacco continues to be available in communities across Alberta.

The Western Convenience Stores Association commissioned a contraband tobacco study, which examined discarded cigarette butts at 46 sites throughout Alberta to determine if illegal (contraband) cigarettes were being purchased and smoked. Samples were gathered between September 9th and September 22nd, 2015.

The average rate of illegal tobacco use at tested sites was 9.8% - unchanged from last year's study.

"It is troubling to know that no matter where you live in Alberta, you can buy illegal cigarettes," said Andrew Klukas, President of the Western Convenience Stores Association (WCSA). "Contraband tobacco is consistently available around school yards and in communities across the province."

Contraband tobacco is sold without mandated health warnings on packages and without age-verification checks. Increased taxes and regulations drive the tobacco market underground, making these products more affordable and accessible to youth. According to the RCMP, illegal tobacco is also linked with organized crime, thereby impacting local safety.

The illegal tobacco rate grew in high schools in Edmonton and Calgary this year. The average rate for the four Edmonton high schools sampled was 7.5% (up from 6.7% last year). The average rate for the four Calgary high schools sampled was 9% (up from 7.3% last year). The average for all 16 high schools where cigarette butts were collected was 9.7% (up from 9% last year).

"Convenience store owners are very concerned about the increased access high school-aged children have to illegal products," said Klukas. "Unlike the controlled sale of legal tobacco at convenience stores, cheap, illegal tobacco is often sold out of the backs of cars where no one ever asks for identification or has a care for the well-being of the kids."

The location with the highest contraband tobacco rate was outside the Real Canadian Superstore along the Trans Canada Highway in Medicine Hat with an illegal tobacco rate of 35.5% (down from 41.3% last year). As with last year's results, Medicine Hat continues to have the highest illegal tobacco rate in Alberta at 17.6% - up from 16.7% last year.

"Alberta has some good tools it can use to fight illegal tobacco in the Tobacco Tax Act," said Klukas. "We hope the Ministers of Health and Finance will work with the Alberta Gaming and Liqour Commission to give them the resources and mandate to make fighting illegal tobacco a priority."


The WCSA is a not-for-profit trade association that represents the interests of over 2,400 Alberta convenience store retailers. These retailers employ more than 20,000 people and contribute over $7 billion annually to the province's economy. Its mission is to foster the success of the convenience store industry in Western Canada by representing the best interests of its members and the communities they serve.

Contact Information:

John McHughan
(613) 235-1400