02/13/2014 06:12 EST | Updated 04/15/2014 05:59 EDT

Store group says Saskatchewan retailers unhappy with federal tobacco tax hike

REGINA - A retailer association is smoking mad about the federal government's decision to raise tobacco taxes.

Andrew Klukas, president of the Western Convenience Stores Association, says the tax hike makes cigarettes in Saskatchewan among the most expensive in Canada.

He says it will lead to more illegal tobacco sales.

This week the Conservative government raised the tax on a carton of 200 cigarettes by $4.

The association estimates that 10 per cent of tobacco sold before the tax increase was in the underground market.

Klukas says he hopes the Saskatchewan government will hold the line on tobacco taxes and crack down on the sale of contraband tobacco.

"The price gap between legal and contraband tobacco products provides an ideal opportunity for illegal tobacco traffickers to sell their product in Saskatchewan," Klukas said in a release Thursday.

"This new federal increase further incentivizes traffickers to sell within the illegal market."

The association says it represents the interests of more than 6,500 convenience store retailers throughout Western Canada.