Canadian Tobacco Retailer Lays Out "Manifesto"

Complex regs lead owner to create tobacco-only store rather than c-store

Published in CSP Daily News

CALGARY, Alberta -- Mike Kinch, the owner of Tobacco Outlet in Calgary, Alberta, is skeptical of why the Canadian government consistently raises fines, taxes and inspections every year under the premise of protecting the public. Seeing the increased complexity of regulations and cost of inventory despite a higher demand from consumers each year, he decided to create a store that can focus on tobacco alone.

He also issued the following "manifesto":

In recent years convenience stores have tended to sell cigarettes and the cigar stores focus simply on the connoisseur. Tobacco Outlet was created to serve all smokers to provide a store that could focus on following rules and regulations and provide a convenient store that would allow consenting, informed adults the ability to see the products. Staff are trained not only on product information, but on strict government rules and regulations that must be followed.

A convenience store, on the other hand, has to train staff on dozens of areas, thus making it hard to focus on proper tobacco controls.

Recently, the Alberta government has stated that it would like to raise "sin taxes" by as much as $2 per pack. Politicians are quick to justify the fact that these practices are aimed at reducing smoking, however as a store owner, he explains that his business actually increased after some of the rule changes.

The owner (a nonsmoker himself) speculates that while there are some legitimate attempts to curb the habit, most rule changes appear to be made to appease anti-smoking voters while still collecting taxes. He feels that the government's addiction to increasing revenues is becoming a worse problem than the issues they are claiming to fight against (i.e. gambling, tobacco, speeding, DUIs) and while these are valid issues too, the government needs to build some credibility.

Regardless of the reason, the fact remains that each year selling tobacco has become more complex and risky for retailers. Holding inventories of several thousands of dollars (the majority of which is actually owed to the government in tobacco, sales and business taxes), while at the same time taking responsibility for upholding numerous laws is becoming much more difficult. Each increase or new law presents a challenge for retailers to explain to customers that the product they wanted would cost more yet again, and perhaps even became illegal. Many changes resulted in retailers having to throw away thousands of dollars of tobacco products that did not agree with revised laws. Normally such products would be returned to the distributors, but the changes put those companies out of business.

Seeing the increased complexity of regulations and cost of inventory despite a higher demand from consumers each year, he decided to create a store that can focus on tobacco alone. In recent years convenience stores have tended to sell cigarettes and the cigar stores focus simply on the connoisseur. Tobacco Outlet was created to serve all smokers to provide a store that could focus on following rules and regulations and provide a convenient store that would allow consenting, informed adults the ability to see the products. Staff are trained not only on product information, but on strict government rules and regulations that must be followed. A convenience store on the other hand has to train staff on dozens of areas, thus making it hard to focus on proper tobacco controls.

Tobacco Outlet understands that healthy living should be promoted, but not forced upon. As well, people's vices should not be preyed upon. Business owners are currently caught selling a legal product to informed willing adults but taxed by governments and often harassed by overzealous inspectors. Business owners would like to see some more legitimate actions that truly protect people without infringing on their rights to free speech or individuals' ability to make their own decisions. Tobacco Outlet would simply like to raise the issue of over-taxation and overregulation.

Keywords: 
cigarettes, cigars