CRA News Alert - July 24, 2009
 

 

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Canadian Tobacco Shop Owner Facing Illegal Display Charges...Again!
By IAN FAIRCLOUGH, The Chronicle Herald


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Kentville tobacco shop owner Bob Gee is ready to fight the province's tobacco legislation again.

Provincial inspectors were back in his shop again June 30 to charge him under the Tobacco Access Act.

"It's the same charges," Mr. Gee said in a telephone interview Monday. "Everything is exactly the same."

Mr. Gee was charged last year with illegally displaying tobacco products.

He was fighting the charges on the grounds that the provincial law requiring him to cover his tobacco displays is unconstitutional, saying that displaying his products is a form of advertising and therefore a form of expression, which is protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Before he could make those arguments in court, the province stayed the charges. A government lawyer said at the time the stay would give Mr. Gee time to comply with new regulations under the act.

Those new regulations, which were enacted in April, allow tobacco stores to use an in-store catalogue to show their products, but the catalogue would have to be supplied by the store and approved by the province.

"That was not acceptable. I don't know what kind of manoeuvre they want to call that. Even if we had one, we still couldn't (display) our products," Mr. Gee said.

But he has no intention of complying with the new regulations either, and has been waiting for another chance to challenge the law.

He said modifying his displays to hide the products from sight would not only add to his expenses, but also slow down the process of waiting on customers.

"We would definitely not be able to operate efficiently," he said.
 

 

 






 

 

 


He maintains that people want to see the choice of products they have, and those products aren't in the view of impressionable young people because as a tobacco shop he doesn't allow anyone under 19 into the store to buy anything.

Just last week, he said, he had to ask for ID from a woman buying a bag of potato chips. She was 23 but looked younger, he said.

Mr. Gee is also charged with selling non-tobacco items, such as chips, chocolate bars, pop and cough drops at a higher percentage of his overall sales than allowed. He said the inspector told him it's only five per cent of his business.

"I said, ‘Do you want to take a five per cent pay cut?' "

Tobacconists are allowed to sell a wider range of non-tobacco products if they have a large percentage of their sales coming from tobacco, and the province is alleging that in this case the percentage is not high enough.

Mr. Gee said those other products complement the business, and someone planning to come into his store for cigarettes and something else may go somewhere else if the other product is not there.

"That five per cent could turn into 20, 15, (per cent of business), or God knows what."

Mr. Gee's lawyer, Curt Palmer, said he still hasn't received the disclosure package containing the details of the province's case and the evidence it is basing the charges on, but he expects it will be similar to that used for the previous charges.

Mr. Palmer said the new regulations allow for one catalogue per store, and Mr. Gee expects that would slow customer transactions even more.

"We don't see that as much of a remedy," Mr. Palmer said. "Certainly the province will argue it's a form of advertising for (the store) and that should be good enough, but practically speaking, it's no help, so our argument remains the same."
 



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