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Campaign launches to push back on restricting sales of nicotine replacement therapies in convenience stores

Concerns expressed around contributing to youth access through illegal and online means.
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Photo: CNW Group/Responsible Retailers, Trusted in Your Community

A new campaign has launched looking to oppose the federal government’s recent moves to restrict access to nicotine replacement therapies (nicotine pouches).

The "Responsible Retailers, Trusted in Your Community" campaign launched in Ottawa highlights the role these products play in helping Canadians quit smoking and underscores the negative consequences of limiting their availability through responsible retailers and ultimately increasing youth access through illegal and online means.

New legislation, directed by Minister of Health Canada Mark Holland, grants what the supports of this campaign say is the minister’s “excessive and unprecedented powers to dictate where any health product can be sold. This broad overreach is driven by politics rather than science.”

The campaign argues that nicotine pouches exist to help people quit smoking and that convenience stores have been trusted community partners in age-gating and protecting minors for decades, responsibly selling alcohol and lottery tickets. By imposing restrictions, they inadvertently make these products more accessible to minors through illegal channels, highlighting the government's hypocrisy in protecting youth.

READ:  Health Minister Holland defends new ministerial powers to pull products off the shelves

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Anne Kothawala, president and CEO of the Convenience Industry Council of Canada, states: "This move by the federal government disregards the valuable and trusted role of convenience stores in local communities. Local corner stores have been reliable partners in age-gating and protecting minors for decades. We were among the few establishments that governments relied upon to remain open during the pandemic to supply communities with their basic needs. The notion that we cannot be trusted to sell a smoking cessation product is both insulting and irresponsible."

Raf Souccar, former deputy commissioner of the RCMP and member of the federal task force on cannabis legalization, comments: "By pushing nicotine pouches out of convenience stores, the government unintentionally fuels the black market. This move not only makes these products more accessible to minors but also provides a new revenue source for organized crime. The federal government's justification for legalizing marijuana was to protect youth and reduce black market activity, yet this policy directly contradicts that rationale. It's time to prioritize effective solutions which genuinely address the root issues."

Ottawa convenience store operator Toni Aoun also supports the effort. "For decades, my store has been an integral part of the community. I have witnessed firsthand many customers who have recently quit smoking and moved to new tobacco-free products. We are committed to following the rules and serving our communities responsibly and hope that the government will support our customers."

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