Retailers fume over tobacco levy

By Geoff Lee

May 19, 2016 12:00 AM

At Prime Foodmart, owner Sam Kadiwal fears having to pay an addition annual fee to the city of $750 for the sale of regular tobacco products might cost him his business.

A couple of independent convenience store owners in Lloydminster are fuming over the city’s proposed levies on the sale of regular and flavoured tobacco.
The city proposes to charge tobacco retailers an additional fee of $750 a year for the sale of regular tobacco and $350 for flavoured tobacco.
That’s on top of their business license fee and are among changes to its draft business license bylaw.
The city is currently looking for comments about the amendments regarding tobacco retailers, pop-up shops, mobile vendors and the taxi business.
It got one on the proposed tobacco fees from Sam Kadiwal, owner of Prime Foodmart.
“It’s going to be hard for me, things are really slow,” he said.
“I might have to shut down the business.”
Under the changes to the bylaw Kadiwal would only pay the $750 fee since he doesn’t sell flavoured smoking products.
Both fees, though, would be used to support a Lloydminster Tobacco Reduction Grant (LTRG) that local non profit organizations could apply for to promote a healthier, smoke-free city.
The grant fits a strategic objective of the city to create a healthy vibrant community, but Kadiwal sees it as another business cost that will hurt his customers.
“It’s going to increase the cost for everything else to make up for that,” he said.
“No matter what the cost, people will still smoke.”
Lloydminster city Coun. Jason Whiting says it’s a tough question to answer if business owners will just look at the LTRG as another business expense without the social benefits.
“It depends if they are wanting to promote healthy living or not,” he said.
“I certainly don’t think the retailer is going to take the brunt of that, so in my mind it should fall through to those who are directly consuming tobacco products.”
The draft business licence bylaw received first reading at last week’s council with a deadline of June 20 for public comments.
Jim Hercik, owner of Parkview Mini Mart,  hadn’t heard about the new fees until contacted by the Source Tuesday and he isn’t happy with the extra cost.
“Definitely I don’t want to pay it—$750—if it’s yearly, that a hell of a jump for our customers, especially with the economy that low,” said Hercik.
“We pay already high taxes in housing, property taxes, water—everything else, we pay it so high.”
One of the changes to the bylaw on tobacco retailing states: “In order to encourage a tobacco-free society and in the support of the movement in which the Tobacco Coalition strives for, we will be imposing an additional fee for tobacco retailers.”
When told about the LTRG Hercik noted the city can call the fee whatever they want, but,  “it’s the customers who get slapped on those taxes.”
He said smokers like him will continue to pay more for cigarettes despite the fee increase or the price of a pack of cigarettes.
“I am not ready to quit,” he said.
Other changes to the draft business license bylaw may be viewed online at the city’s website link at www.lloydminster.ca/DocumentCenter/Index/548.
To share feedback or request more information about the tobacco retailers section, e-mail yourvoice@lloydminster.ca.

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