OKBA Loses Hundreds of Members Over Last 10 Years Largely Due to Illegal Tobacco Sales
ETOBICOKE, ON, May 25, 2022 /CNW/ - With Ontario's election winding down, independent convenience store owners are frustrated and disappointed that the major parties have said little about addressing the ongoing impacts of unregulated contraband tobacco in Ontario.
As the leading voice for independent convenience store owners in the province, the Ontario Korean Businessman's Association (OKBA) recently launched the Save Our Stores Campaign, geared at bringing political awareness to the cigarette trafficking problem that is flourishing across Ontario, while legal store owners pay the price.
Over the past 10 years, the OKBA has lost close to 1,000 members, many of whom have closed their businesses permanently due to unfair competition from organized crime groups selling contraband. According to the Ford government's own admission, Ontario is losing up to $750M annually due to unregulated tobacco sales. In addition, all the effective anti-smoking regulations implemented by government are ignored by illegal contraband traffickers.
Independent convenience store owners are encouraged by comments in the recent Ontario budget, under the "Addressing Unregulated Tobacco" section, wherein the government committed to continuing to work towards a balanced approach to addressing the problem, including:
Reviewing and modernizing the Tobacco Tax Act based on recommendations from the consultations to ease administrative burden and strengthen provincial oversight;
Continuing to enhance raw leaf tobacco oversight through adoption of "track and trace" technologies; and
Expanding enforcement partnerships with interested provincial, local, and First Nations police services.
"We appreciate the Ford government's acknowledgment on contraband tobacco in their recent budget, and we support their commitments as a good start", said spokesperson Mr. Kenny Shim, OKBA President. "Unfortunately, much more needs to be done if we seriously want to tackle this problem."
According to police, many organized crime groups who profit from contraband tobacco also traffic illegal drugs, weapons, and can be involved in human trafficking.
Added Shim, "Our members take selling age-restricted products very seriously. As licensed retailers, we follow all government mandates, and we pay our taxes. It is extremely unfair and frustrating that contraband dealers are still not more seriously dealt with. Through our SOS Campaign we encourage all parties to take a stand against illegal tobacco sales, and if re-elected, we hope the Ford government will keep their budget commitments to help legal store owners stay in business."
In addition to government addressing the growing problem of contraband tobacco, convenience store owners would also welcome other policies that could help their small businesses' bottom line. These include broader opportunities to sell beverage alcohol, larger lottery commissions, and reduced red tape and regulations.
Through the SOS Campaign, the OKBA's remaining members aim to engage and inform all candidates running for provincial office, from all parties, across all 124 ridings in Ontario.
The OKBA represents over 900 C-store owner members across Ontario.
For more information, please visit www.saveourstores.ca
SOURCE Ontario Korean Businessmen's Association
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