Alberta convenience store owners leery about possibility of menthol tobacco ban

A group that represents Alberta convenience store owners is unhappy over indications the province will ban the sale of menthol-flavoured tobacco.

EDMONTON — A group that represents Alberta convenience store owners is unhappy over indications the province will ban the sale of menthol-flavoured tobacco.

The Western Convenience Stores Association said Thursday that lobbyists for health organizations are trying to shame the new NDP government into making it impossible for adults to buy menthol cigarettes.

Association president Andrew Klukas said a ban would hurt the bottom line of stores, cost the government tax revenue and drive the sale of menthol tobacco underground.

“Making the sale of all flavoured products like menthol cigarettes illegal will predominantly impact adults who will no longer be able to buy the products they have used responsibly and enjoyed for many years,” Klukas said.

“My fear is that a menthol cigarette ban will create an even larger demand for illegal tobacco products on the black market in Alberta.”

The association represents more than 2,000 convenience stores in the province.

The Alberta NDP has been in favour of a menthol ban and Premier Rachel Notley said Wednesday that she expects there will be an announcement in the coming days.

The provincial government passed legislation in 2013 to ban flavoured tobacco, but the previous Progressive Conservative government decided earlier this year to exclude menthol from the law.

The Canadian Cancer Society estimates that one in three Alberta youth smokers use menthol cigarettes, compared to one in 20 adult smokers.

Les Hagen of the group Action on Smoking and Health said the menthol tobacco market is aimed at young people and a ban on the flavour in Alberta is overdue.

He said the tobacco industry and some retail stores are more interested in money than in the health of young people and this latest plea not to ban menthol isn’t a surprise.

“It just demonstrates how important the youth market is to the industry and how desperately they want to hang on to it,” Hagen said.

“Over half of Canadian youth who use tobacco are using flavoured tobacco products, so the industry is going to lose up to half of its new customers and that is just fine by me.”

Hagen notes that Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec have either banned menthol-flavoured tobacco or have plans to do so.

Alberta’s new regulations that ban flavoured tobacco products other than menthol are to go into effect Monday.

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