EDMONTON, AB--(Marketwired - November 03, 2016) - Illegal tobacco is on the rise in Alberta.

The Western Convenience Stores Association commissioned a contraband tobacco study, which examined discarded cigarette butts at 38 sites throughout Alberta to determine if illegal (contraband) cigarettes were being purchased and smoked. Samples were gathered between September 16th and September 26nd, 2016.

The average rate of illegal tobacco use at tested sites was 12.3% -- a big jump from 9.8% last year.

"Two things have happened in Alberta since last year," said Andrew Klukas, President of the Western Convenience Stores Association (WCSA). "First, Alberta's economy is in recession. Second, the Government of Alberta increased tobacco taxes by $10 per carton in 2015 -- by $5.00 in March and another $5.00 in October."

"Alberta now has an environment where smokers are actively seeking cheaper tobacco products and products that the government restricted access to, such as menthol cigarettes. It's the perfect recipe for illegal tobacco sellers."

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 public safety.

Consumption of illegal tobacco has increased both in Edmonton and Calgary since the latest contraband tobacco study, which was completed in late September 2015. The rate for Edmonton jumped from 9.7% in 2015 to 11.1%, while the rate in Calgary jumped from 8.8% to 11.3%.

For the third year in a row, the location with the highest contraband tobacco rate was outside the Real Canadian Superstore along the Trans Canada Highway in Medicine Hat, at 32.5%. Medicine Hat continues to have the highest illegal tobacco rate of any municipality in Alberta at 15.2%.

"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 Liquor 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 employed more than 21,000 people in 2015 and collected approximately $1 billion in taxes for government. The association's 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.

   Location  Rate (%)
1  Real Canadian Super Store (Trans Canada Highway) Medicine Hat  32.5
2  Crescent Heights High School (Medicine Hat)  26.4
3  Nisku Truck Stop (Leduc)  24
4  Bower Place Shopping Centre (Red Deer)  21.7
5  Eastglen High School (Edmonton)  20.9
6  Queen Elizabeth High School (NW) Calgary  20.6
7  Southcenter Mall  20.4
8  Tim Hortons/Wendy's (112 St. NW, Edmonton)  17.7
9  Westmount Shopping Centre  16.6
10  Canada Place, Edmonton  16.5

Contact Information:

For more information, please contact:

Summa Strategies
(613) 235-1400