Hundreds of Independent Convenience Store Owners Forced to Close

in Last 10 Years Largely Due to Illegal Tobacco Sales

ETOBICOKE, ON – June 8th, 2022 – The Ontario Korean Businessmen’s Association (OKBA) congratulates Doug Ford and his government on their majority re-election last week. With a new 4-year mandate ahead of them, OKBA members will be pressing the Ford government to finally crack down on illegal tobacco sales in the province; a problem that has caused hundreds of small businesses to close permanently over the last decade.

As the leading voice for independent convenience store owners in the province, the OKBA launched the 2022 Save Our Stores Campaign as a lead up to the June 2nd election to bring political awareness to the cigarette trafficking problem that is flourishing across Ontario, while legal store owners pay the price.

Over the past 10 years, the OKBA has lost close to 1,000 members, many of whom have closed their businesses permanently due to unfair competition from organized crime groups selling contraband.  According to the Ford government’s own admission, Ontario is losing up to $750M annually due to unregulated tobacco sales.  In addition, all the effective anti-smoking regulations implemented by government are ignored by illegal contraband traffickers. 

Independent convenience store owners now expect the Government of Ontario to follow through on their commitments as outlined in the last Ontario budget, under the “Addressing Unregulated Tobacco” section:

  • Reviewing and modernizing the Tobacco Tax Act based on recommendations from the consultations to ease administrative burden and strengthen provincial oversight.
  • Continuing to enhance raw leaf tobacco oversight through adoption of “track and trace” technologies; and
  • Expanding enforcement partnerships with interested provincial, local, and First Nations police services.

“We had the good fortune to meet with Premier Ford and Finance Minister Bethlenfalvy before the election and we know they are interested in finding a solution”, said spokesperson Mr. Kenny Shim, OKBA President.  “The province can no longer afford to lose so much money to crime groups that profit in the trafficking of illegal tobacco. More importantly, all the good work government has done to make tobacco a highly restricted and taxed product is lost when people can easily get cheap, unregulated contraband. Increased resources and powers to law enforcement to tackle this problem more aggressively will make a difference and are needed.”

According to police, many organized crime groups who profit from contraband tobacco also traffic illegal drugs, weapons, and can be involved in human trafficking. 

Added Shim, “Our members take selling age-restricted products very seriously.  As licensed retailers, we follow all government mandates, and we pay our taxes.  It has been extremely frustrating that contraband dealers are still not more seriously dealt with. Now that the focus on the pandemic is subsiding, we hope and expect Premier Ford and his government take a firm stand against illegal tobacco to help our communities and law-abiding store owners stay in business.”

In addition to government addressing the growing problem of contraband tobacco, convenience store owners would welcome other policies to help their small businesses’ bottom line. These include broader opportunities to sell beverage alcohol, larger lottery commissions, and overall reduction of red tape and regulations.

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Media Enquiries:        To arrange an interview with Kenny Shim, President & Chief Operating Director of OKBA, contact Lindsay Yaciuk, 905-715-2788,

The OKBA represents over 900 C-store owner members across Ontario.