Despite being in business for more than 20 years, Oyama General Store owner Cory Holland is worried about the future.
Holland’s store was the first to launch the ‘Speak Up For Our Stores’ campaign on Nov. 17, an effort by the Convenience Retailers Alliance 4 Safe Communities to fight back against contraband tobacco.
The main goal of the campaign is to bring awareness of the rising problem of illegal tobacco to the B.C. government, and have it addressed in the 2023 provincial budget next February.
“With no support from the B.C. government, I am not sure what will happen to my store and my community,” said Holland. “I have operated my store for over 20 years in B.C. and I have never seen such a severe loss of sales and customers because of contraband tobacco.”
Holland said that the problem has been “a slippery slope.”
“Today, the serious issue is contraband tobacco but what is it going to be next for these illegal pushers? We as store owners feel disappointed and abandoned by own government. We need help.”
The alliance said that licensed convenience store owners lose out on millions of dollars in revenue each year due to the sale of contraband tobacco, while British Columbians in general are robbed of millions in tax revenue.
They are calling for the province to enact stricter policies to protect consumers and store owners, including harsher penalties and a specialized task force.