OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - May 31, 2016) - The Canadian Convenience Stores Association (CCSA) is expressing concern in response to an announcement today from federal Health Minister Jane Philpott regarding the introduction of plain packaging for tobacco products in Canada. Retailers are concerned that this plan will have unintended consequences for small business owners and Canadians, which will undermine tobacco cessation initiatives.

"Our retailers stand with various levels of government in supporting tobacco-reduction efforts in Canada, particularly when it comes to youth consumption," said Alex Scholten, President of the CCSA. "Reducing smoking rates and preventing youth access to tobacco is a goal with widespread national support, particularly amongst retailers."

"It is in this capacity as gatekeepers to age-restricted products that we are concerned by the unintended consequences plain packaging may create if introduced in Canada."

Measures designed to help control the sale of tobacco including hiding products behind display flaps, marketing and advertising bans, as well as graphic warning labels covering 75% of tobacco products are already present in Canada. Combined with retailer training and age-testing enforcement, Canada's tobacco consumption rate is at an all-time low. Retailer's contributions to these control measures should not be underestimated.

Plain package tobacco products can be easily replicated by counterfeiters and contraband tobacco manufacturers, making it difficult for retailers, law enforcement and consumers to differentiate legal from illegal products. Given Canada's already dangerous illicit tobacco network, plain packaging poses a threat to the responsible distribution and sale of legal tobacco products. For this reason, retailers are skeptical that plain packaging will in fact reduce youth tobacco access and consumption.

"Australian retailers have told us that customers began purchasing higher quantities of the cheapest cigarettes following plain packaging, even going as far as to ask about the availability of illicit tobacco," said Scholten. "This impacts our stores, but more importantly, suggests that consumers are simply going underground to purchase these products, which undermines Canada's tobacco control measures."

The CCSA has suggested alternative measures to reducing tobacco consumption, including a national ban on youth tobacco consumption (such as that found in Alberta which has yet to be enforced). Currently, no such federal law exists. Retailers hope to discuss this alternative with Minister Philpott soon.

"The Minister's office has committed to consulting with retailers on plain packaging, which we are pleased to hear," said Scholten. "A lengthy implementation period, support for training and addressing the illicit tobacco market will be critical in making this policy truly effective."

About CCSA

The CCSA is a national not-for-profit trade association that represents the interests of over 26,000 convenience store retailers operating in Canada. Its mission is to foster the success of the convenience store industry in Canada by representing the best interests of its members, and the communities they serve.

Contact Information:

Kate Harrison (Summa Strategies Canada)
613-235-1400 (x226)