Cigarettes consumption may harm people’s health, but Windsor’s corner shops operators noted that the abundant supply of cheap, contraband tobacco products on local streets is killing their cigarettes business. “It’s a huge problem – I’m sure half the cigs sold in Windsor are not legal,” declared Terry Yaldo, who owns the Midway Convenience corner shop on Wyandotte Street East in Pillette Village. Yaldo also said that his sales of smoking products are not a big revenue maker, but they are a very important manufacturer of customer traffic, with smokers purchasing other things that provide a much-needed extra margin of profitability.
Wa’il Alfaris, owner of Haf-Price Variety on Drouillard Road, can always tell when the police or the government authorities have scored another big failure - that’s when his shop traffic and cigarettes sale jump.
“You see a very big difference – people come in and ask, ‘What is the cheapest smoking brand you have?’” explained Alfaris.
There are a lot of store which sell cheaper cigarettes. For example in four main street break over the past three months, the RCMP in Windsor grasped 1,296 cartons and 1,182 “baggies” of unwrapped cigs – more than 260,000 tobacco products. That was more than triple the number of cartons (each containing 20 packages) and quadruple the number of baggies (each containing 200 individual cigarettes) seized in all of 2011.
There’s been an “exiting trend” ascending in the number of illegal cigs being sold in Windsor, noted Dave Bryans, CEO of the Ontario Convenience Stores Association.
He cites studies that point to unlawful making increased a third or more of all tobacco smoked in Ontario, with Ontario’s auditor general suggesting up to a billion dollars in annual cigarettes sales tax revenues is being lost to the province.
Bryans reported that the contraband cigarettes are being sold for example in parking lots, on factory floors and in seclusion homes. The convenience shop operators themselves are being approached to sell the illegal smokes.