PEI

'Impossible' to sell vape product inventory before March 1, says P.E.I. convenience store owner

A Charlottetown business owner says he doesn't think the government has given enough time for convenience stores to adapt to a recently announced change to the way tobacco and electronic smoking products are sold on P.E.I.

'Somebody did this with no knowledge of how small business works'

Starting March 1 the legal age to purchase tobacco and electronic smoking devices on P.E.I. will rise to 21, and vaping products will have to be sold in specialty tobacconist shops. (Nam Y. Huh/The Associated Press)

A Charlottetown business owner says he doesn't think the government has given enough time for convenience stores to adapt to a recently announced change to the way tobacco and electronic smoking products are sold on P.E.I.

Starting March 1 the legal age to purchase tobacco and electronic smoking devices on P.E.I. will rise to 21, and vaping products will have to be sold in specialty tobacconist shops.

Tobacconist shops are age-restricted locations where, "at least 50 per cent of the retailer's product display space is devoted to the sale of tobacco, electronic smoking devices, or a combination of both," the province said in a letter to retailers Wednesday.

While Soroush Yazdani, owner of Downtown Convenience in Charlottetown, said he agrees with the idea of restricting tobacco in principle, there are problems.

"I don't mind the change although I think it is a little bit drastic," he said. "The timeline that they gave is really, really tight."

'Impossible for me'

Yazdani said he has a lot of inventory he has to sell in two weeks, before the new rules kick in. 

"That's impossible for me," he said. "They won't let us advertise it so we can't put on a special to get rid of it. They won't let us show it. They just, they literally corner us."

Yazdani said he feels the government made the decision with limited knowledge.

"It just seems somebody did this with no knowledge of how small business works," he said. "Business like this works on a nickel and dime, like you cannot just wake up one day and say 'I'm going to do this' and cost us thousands of dollars."

'I just don't know what to do … I'm just puzzled,' says Soroush Yazdani, owner of Downtown Convenience. (Robert LeClair/CBC)

Yazdani said returning the inventory he has isn't possible — he said he was told the sale is final.

"I just don't know what to do … I'm just puzzled," he said.

Yazdani has been in the convenience store business for about 30 years and said he has seen a lot of changes in terms of tobacco retail, but there was always more time.

"They just changed the packaging and it was more than a year before they did that. There was lots of time, lots of talks all over the news about it. But with this it caught everybody by surprise," he said.

"It would have been great if we had at least three or four months to clean up what we have and get rid of all the inventory."

Date won't change

When there is a decision made in the House to adopt new legislation there is a 120-day window to enact it, said Dr. David Sabapathy, deputy chief public health officer with the province.

"The reason that we are interested in rolling this out is because of the increasing rates of vaping and actually youth tobacco use as well in P.E.I.," he said.

'We are going to meet with retailers one on one to sit down with them and discuss the changes that are occurring,' says Dr. David Sabapathy, deputy chief public health officer with the province. (CBC)

Sabapathy said the province wants to work with retailers to enact the changes as quickly as possible and the March 1 date won't be shifted.

"There is not a lot of room there in terms of moving that date to suit particular interests," he said.

Sabapathy said retailers have been sent a memo describing the legislative changes.

"Next we are going to meet with retailers one on one, to sit down with them and discuss the changes that are occurring. We have an education tool kit," he said.

Sabapathy said when the legal age to purchase tobacco and electronic smoking devices goes up to 21, he hopes the rates of vaping and tobacco use start to decline.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Brittany Spencer and Kerry Campbell

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