WINNIPEG, MB--(Marketwired - November 01, 2016) - Manitoba convenience store retailers are deeply concerned following the release of a study showing the rate of illegal tobacco in communities across Manitoba is growing.

The Western Convenience Stores Association commissioned a contraband tobacco study which examined discarded cigarette butts at 30 sites throughout Manitoba to determine if illegal (contraband) cigarettes were being purchased and smoked. Samples were gathered between September 25th and October 8th, 2016.

The average rate of illegal tobacco use at sites tested across Manitoba was 14.7%, suggesting illegal cigarettes are widely available across the province. The illegal tobacco rate in 2015 was 12.7%.

"Illegal tobacco is once again a growing problem in Manitoba," said Andrew Klukas, President of the Western Convenience Stores Association (WCSA). "Illegal tobacco is easily accessible at schools and in communities across the province."

Contraband tobacco is sold without mandated health warnings on packages and without age-verification checks. Poor economic conditions, increased taxes and unintended consequences of 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.

Brandon City Hall had the highest illegal tobacco usage rate at 27.2%; Elmwood High School in Winnipeg came in second at 25.1%; and Crocus Plains Regional Secondary School in Brandon ranked third at 21.2%. The City of Brandon had the highest average in the province with a rate of 20.2% at the six sites tested.

Access to illegal tobacco near high schools is growing in Manitoba. Of the 11 schools tested, the illegal tobacco rate at high school sites was 17.8% -- up from 13.2% for the exact same sites tested last year. No high school in 2016 had less than a 10% illegal tobacco rate. In 2015, four high schools had less than 10%.

"Illegal tobacco can be sold out of the backs of cars making it convenient and cheap for young people," said Klukas. "The Government of Manitoba has to beef up enforcement to keep illegal tobacco off the streets and out of the hands of youth."

The WCSA asks the Manitoba government to be more proactive when it comes to illegal tobacco. Manitoba needs to update its Tobacco Tax Act to reflect the new reality of illegal tobacco in the province. Manitoba also needs to dedicate additional resources to revenue enforcement officials.


The WCSA is a not-for-profit trade association that represents the interests of over 900 Manitoba convenience store retailers and gas stations. These retailers employ almost 8,000 people and annually contribute over $200 million in retail sales taxes to provincial revenues. 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.

  Top 10 Illegal Tobacco Sites in Manitoba    
    2015 2016
1 Brandon City Hall 18.4 27.2
2 Elmwood High School (Winnipeg) 34 25.1
3 Crocus Plains Regional Secondary School (Brandon) 17.2 21.2
4 Vincent Massey High School (Brandon) 10.3 20.2
5 Dauphin Regional Comprehensive Secondary School 11.3 20.2
6 Dauphin Royal Canadian Legion (Branch 20) 0 19.9
7 Daniel McIntyre Collegiate Institute 7 18.7
8 Dauphin City Hall 14.9 18.5
9 Brandon Royal Canadian Legion (Branch 3) 21.3 18.4
10 Ecole Secondaire Neelin High School (Brandon) 9.2 17.5

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