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OKBA Fuming Mad At Ford Government

OKBA Fuming Mad At Ford Government

Health Minister Christine Elliott’s Short-Sighted Announcement
Hurts Small Business Operators Unfairly and Does Nothing to Protect Youth

TORONTO, Feb. 28, 2020 /CNW Press Release/ – Subsequent to the January 1st, 2020 regulation banning convenience stores from displaying vaping product advertisements in their stores, the sector has been dealt with yet another blow to their reputation, and their bottom line.  Members of the Ontario Korean Businessmen’s Association (OKBA) are bewildered and extremely disappointed by today’s provincial announcement that convenience stores will soon be prohibited from selling a small range of flavoured vaping products. Products that have proven to aid smoker’s transition away from tobacco. Meanwhile specialty vape stores will be allowed to continue selling hundreds of them. 

Convenience store operators have long been a trusted government alley when it comes to selling age-restricted products responsibly. This includes tobacco, lottery and vaping products amongst other categories. Owners’ livelihoods rely on them playing by the rules and enforcing strict government regulations so that minors cannot purchase age-restricted products. Repeatedly statistics show convenience stores are far more reliable and accountable when it comes to selling vaping products, compared to vape shops. Ministry of Health statistics show that convenience stores were over 96% compliant when checking ID of underage mystery shoppers.  In contrast, vape shops have a terrible track record when it comes to youth access.

Of youth surveyed in Health Canada’s 2017 Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey1, 49% who admitted trying a vape reported they borrowed, shared or bought it from a friend. 23% admitted purchasing their vapes from a vape shop, but only 12% claimed they purchased their vape from a convenience store.

Last week the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health released new research highlighting that convenience stores were the least likely place for minors to purchase their vaping products2. And lastly, a recent Health Canada letter to vaping retailers stated that more than 80% of vape stores inspected were in violation of the Tobacco & Vaping Products Act3.  Today’s announcement by Health Minister Christine Elliott will do nothing to curb youth access of vaping products in Ontario.

“Our members have been responsibly selling e-cigarettes and vaping products for many years and we work closely with our members to ensure minors cannot buy them in our stores”, said Kenny Shim, OKBA Spokesman and King Street West store owner. “If government is truly concerned about vaping, they are targeting the wrong retail outlet in Convenience stores. To think minors aren’t purchasing from vape shops is extremely naïve.”  Added Shim, “Our members were excited when the Ford government was elected in 2018. We didn’t expect this government to follow the previous Liberal government’s habit of picking winners and losers. What happened to, Open for Business??”

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The Ontario Korean Businessmen’s Association (OKBA) supports any initiative to protect public health, particularly youth, but strongly opposes measures that single out convenience store owners as irresponsible and untrustworthy.  The ban of flavoured vape sales from C-stores implies a complete lack of trust in thousands of hardworking entrepreneurs, who are otherwise considered capable of responsibly selling a wide range of age restricted products. This government has repeatedly said they would trust C-stores to sell beer and wine but now say the sector cannot be trusted to responsibly sell flavoured vapes.

The OKBA membership plans to pressure the government to reconsider this regulatory proposal as it will unfairly impact hard working independent retailers across Ontario.

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