A Tobacco-Free County: Could It Ever Happen?

A Tobacco-Free County: Could It Ever Happen?

 

Regulation of the industry’s most popular in-store program will affect the convenience store channel in a profoundly negative way.

I remember it clearly. It was an overcast day in June 2002 in Lancaster County, Pa., when I attended a meeting that has always left me with a lasting impression. As the tobacco buyer for a major oil company, I quietly sat (not something I’m known for) and I listened to the discussion that one day would make Lancaster County tobacco free! Quite frightening was this agenda, as it would make it illegal to grow any tobacco, market tobacco or use any form of tobacco within the county boundaries. Could this ever happen?

Today, convenience stores are faced with a future that will be greatly affected by future FDA regulation. The bill imposes major regulatory obstacles in the marketing of any new tobacco products. It treats tobacco products like medical devices. However, most of the regulatory provisions make no sense for application to tobacco products. Product changes which fueled the recent unprecedented growth of the “other tobacco” portion of the convenience channel will now need to go through cumbersome review.

Approval or denial will be given based on whether the product or its changes are deemed “in the best interests of public health.” The standards are broadly defined in the bill with the goal of reducing overall tobacco consumption. This bill will not allow the FDA to ban the product or reduce nicotine to zero but its provisions will allow for the FDA to impose any requirements or prohibitions it sees fit.

It is clear from my understanding that the FDA would have broad authority to make tobacco products highly unattractive to adult smokers and highly inaccessible to the public. All of these factors will most definitely affect the convenience store channel in a negative way.

 

Know the “Risks”

Another area of the bill that will affect the convenience channel of trade is that the bill prevents the communication about significant differences among the levels of risk presented by different types of tobacco products. The convenience store channel needs to address this lack of good practice and realize that not all tobacco products are the same in the spectrum of risk, or in other words, some are riskier than others.

At a recent conference on “Harm Reduction” many attendees were extremely concerned that this message is being squashed by those who deny this truth and ultimately want to ban the use of all tobacco products.

If moist smokeless tobacco is safer than cigarettes why must it post the following: “Warning: This product is not a safe alternative to cigarettes”? If, like I proposed in an earlier article, “Who Said Tobacco Can’t Be Safer?” (CSD, May 2008) that one day in the future a brilliant mind cracks the code and finds a way to make tobacco safer would this legislation allow for this claim? I think not.

Would not the convenience channel of trade benefit the most from the sales of a tobacco product that truly was a safer or safe product? Wouldn’t you want to be able to communicate that message?

H.R. 1108 eliminates federal preemption of marketing and advertising which would allow states or local governments to set its own standards. They would be able to enact any restriction “that is in addition to, or more stringent than,” those in the bill. One can only imagine the nightmare this would present to national distributors and the convenience channel of trade.

A bill that one would assume would create uniformity in the industry most likely will lead to chaos. Is it not possible that a local government could one day decide to enact a much more stringent law that banned tobacco from being grown, marketed or used within its boundaries?

As I look to the past is there a glimpse of the future? The foundation of a movement was evidenced back in June 2002. If the movement succeeded and you operated a convenience store in Tobacco Free Lancaster County would your business survive? How would you replace the lost sales and profits from tobacco sales that are no longer allowed? H.R. 1108 as it is currently written puts your business at risk. H.R. 1108 needs to be opposed.

This article was recently published in the July 08 Convenience Store Decisions magazine. I’d be interested in hearing your opinions! Do you think that this could ever happen? What are you doing as a retailer today to oppose potential legislation like this that would seriously affect your business? If your a manufacturer or wholesaler what are your thoughts?

 

27 comments ↓

#1 TAZ on 07.27.08 at 11:52 AM

FOUND THIS ARTICLE ON THE TMA SITE AFTER I POSTED THE POST.

United Kingdom: BMA Calls For Strategy To Make Nation Tobacco-Free By 2035
In its new report that urges the UK government to develop a comprehensive strategy to make the country tobacco-free by 2035, the British Medical Association (BMA) recommends introducing legislation that would require anti-smoking ads to be shown before movies or television programs which portray smoking in order to “de-glamorise and de-normalise” smoking among young people. The BMA is also calling on the British Board of Film Classification to consider smoking content when classifying films, videos and digital material to see if smoking is “condoned, encouraged or glamorized in the absence of editorial justification.” The report seeks action to educate people in the entertainment industry about the potential damage caused by onscreen smoking. The BMA report urges the government to introduce a licensing scheme for tobacco retailers, fix minimum prices for cigarettes and other tobacco products, mandate plain packaging for cigarettes, eliminate retail tobacco displays and ban vending machine cigarette sales. The report also says the government should prevent tobacco companies from introducing new products, including those which the industry claims offer “reduced harm.” Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of science and ethics at the BMA, said smoking by parents, peers and celebrities and exposure to cigarette industry marketing reinforce the belief that the habit is “forever cool” in the minds of young people. Government statistics show that more than 200,000 children below 16 start smoking each year. In May, the UK Department of Health released for public consultation youth anti-tobacco proposals that seek to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes, prohibit the sale of pack sizes of less than 20 cigarettes and ban cigarette vending machines (Press Association Newsfile 7/7).

#2 Mike Hock on 07.28.08 at 8:47 AM

I think it is very possible to be smokefree in this country. However it will take innovation. One vice needs to replace the other. With new technology, smokeless products on the horizon will allow people to satsify their fixations without the current fears of cancer, etc. I do not think revenue streams will shrink. If there are “better choices” out there, I think more people will either enter or return to the category. Revenues could go up in the long term.

A safe dip would bring me back, that is for sure.

#3 Bill Godshall on 07.28.08 at 2:39 PM

The Philip Morris negotiated and backed FDA legislation contains many provisions to protect PM’s Marlboro cigarette brand and to prevent tobacco harm reduction, but the legislation will not lead to tobacco (or cigarette) prohibition in any county.

#4 NC Tarheel on 07.28.08 at 5:29 PM

Bill,

In reading the proposed legislation Lou actually has a very good point in that the bill allows local bodies to pass more stringent laws. H.R. 1108 eliminates federal preemption of marketing and advertising which would allow states or local governments to set its own standards.

#5 TAZ on 07.28.08 at 5:56 PM

United States
In Florida, Escambia County commissioners announced a new policy under which users of tobacco products will not be eligible for county jobs, effective October 1st. (Associated Press – AP 07/26)
AMAZING HOW FOLKS DON’T SEE THE ANTI TOBACCO MOVEMENT GAINING MORE AND MORE GROUND!

#6 Stuart Garret on 07.28.08 at 9:39 PM

OK……Here I am, Dr.Pepperman:

I want to let everyone here know that Nicotine Water is BACK!

It’s been about four years since the City Of New York pased a law that the drink had to be kept behind the counter.

Well, not ant more.

Check this out:

Monday, July 28, 2008 6:33 am Eastern Time
Press Release

SOURCE: Beverage Marketing USA, Inc.

“Nicotine Water” Returns To Market — Now In Two New Versions For OTC (Over-the-counter) Retail Sale

CAMARILLO, Calif., –(News Release – July 28, 2008) – Nicotine Water has returned to the “smoking alternative” marketplace, based upon United States Patent Number 6,268,386 entitled “Nicotine beverage” and several additional patents pending. The new “Proprietary Formula(s)” for “Nicotine Water” are now compliant with FDA regulations and incorporate attributes that no other smoking alternative products on the market possess.

In 1998 sales of Nicotine Water began, however in 2002 the FDA found that Nicotine Water did not fall within the criteria of a Dietary Supplement and sales would have to end until such time as Nicotine Water could be reformulated to comply with FDA regulations. That time is now and with over 10 years of research Nicotine Water is now in two formidable and complimentary products. Both are equivalent to 3 cigarettes, one incorporates tobacco along with nicotine to provide the “edge” so many people who smoke site as a reason for smoking. The second is able to replicate the effects of 3 cigarettes, but with 84% less nicotine.

Both versions of Nicotine water have zero calories or carbs in addition to zero tar and other negative health effects of smoking. Experience has shown an effective product that does not taste good will not be used and it does little good to taste good and not be effective. Which brings us back to the name, while the product contains Nicotine it does in fact taste (and look) like water, hence the name Nicotine Water.

For more information please visit http://www.nicotinewater.com

CONTACT:

Stuart Garret

Global Beverage Innovations, AES, INC.

760-272-6377 SFGUME@AOL.COM
SOURCE: Beverage Marketing USA, Inc.

After many formula changes, the drink is back and over 90% more effective than the patch or gum.

#7 JD on 07.29.08 at 10:29 AM

Lou, while it may not happen in our lifetime, I could certainly forsee over time that smoking in our country becomes so restricted and so expensive that it reaches a level that it becomes such a small part of our society that people cease to care.

Because we have become a nation of increasingly legislated restrictions that prohibit activity that can be construed as dangerous, smoking, like other perceived poor health practices, will be frowned upon by the general population. The next frontier will be drinking and eating habit legislation, followed by “healthy lifestyle” legislation. The way this will change our habits may start at the insurance company level (i.e. higher premiums for less than healthy activity) then move to legislation. This could begin to happen when national health care becomes a reality.

#8 Bill Godshall on 07.29.08 at 11:38 AM

While the Philip Morris backed FDA tobacco legislation eliminates the longstanding FCLAA preemption of more restrictive state/local laws to regulate tobacco advertising, the US Constitution still trumps federal/state/local laws.

The Lorillard v Reilly decision by the US Supreme Court (in striking down a MA tobacco regulation that, among other things, prohibited all outdoor tobacco advertisements within 1,000 feet of any school or playground) ruled that the 1,000 foot limit (which virtually banned outdoor tobacco ads in Boston)violated the first amendment right of tobacco companies to advertise to their adult customers.

Another reason Smokefree Pennsylvania and I have opposed the Philip Morris backed FDA legislation is because the same 1,000 foot tobacco advertising limit
is included in the legislation (i.e. under the 1996 FDA Rule), and almost certainly will be struck down again by the SCOTUS again (probably along with other advertising restrictions contained in the legislation (as the SCOTUS is even more conservative now (than when it struck down the MA advertising regulation).

A few years ago, then PM lawyer Mark Berlind (who was involved in the FDA legislative negotiations with CTFK back in 2003/04) similarly acknowledged in a news article that he (i.e. PM) was confident the SCOTUS would strike down various advertising restrictions in the FDA legislation.

So PM gets public relations points for endorsing tobacco advertising restrictions, while likely being able to advertise at many of those same locations again (pending FDA enactment and forthcoming adverse court rulings).

If/when the FDA bill passes (not likely this session of Congress) any subsequently enacted state laws that restrict tobacco advertising beyond the FDA law will face similar Constitutional scrutiny.

#9 Bill Godshall on 07.29.08 at 11:45 AM

Smokefree Pennsylvania is faxing the following letter to U.S. House members.
All Representatives can be called at 202-224-3121, with other contact information at http://www.house.gov/

– – – –

Smokefree Pennsylvania
1926 Monongahela Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15218
412-351-5880

July 28, 2008

The Honorable Mike Doyle
U.S. House of Representatives
401 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

RE: FDA tobacco regulatory legislation (H.R.1108)

Dear Representative Doyle:

Smokefree Pennsylvania urges you to oppose H.R. 1108, a negotiated deal agreed to by cigarette giant Philip Morris and the Campaign for Tobacco
Free Kids in 2004, because it:

– deceives the public to believe that smokefree products are just as hazardous as cigarettes,

– protects cigarettes and Philip Morris from market competition by smokefree products,

– authorizes and paves the way for FDA to perpetuate the safer cigarette myth/fraud, and

– denies the FDA authority to halt cigarette marketing/sales to high school students.

Sound regulations truthfully inform consumers about the known risks of different products. Cigarettes are about 100 times deadlier than smokefree (i.e. smokeless) tobacco products, but nearly 90% of smokers incorrectly believe that smokefree tobacco products are just as hazardous as cigarettes. Instead of accurately informing smokers about product risks,
H.R. 1108 protects cigarettes (especially Marlboro) by perpetuating this myth/fraud.

Smokers can sharply reduce their health risks by switching to smokefree tobacco products, and tobacco consumers have a right to know the huge differences in risks posed by these tobacco products. I coauthored a
report “Tobacco harm reduction: an alternative cessation strategy for addicted smokers” at http://www.harmreductionjournal.com/content/3/1/37

Sound regulations also provide incentives for industry to develop and transition to safer products. Tobacco consumers in the U.S. now obtain about 80% of their nicotine from the deadliest product (cigarettes), and
about 20% from the least hazardous tobacco/nicotine products (smokefree). But H.R. 1108 discourages cigarette companies from developing and marketing
less hazardous alternatives by prohibiting all smokefree tobacco products from truthfully claiming they are less hazardous alternatives to cigarettes, and by requiring all smokefree tobacco products to contain even larger deceptive warning labels stating: “This product is not a safe alternative to cigarettes.”

While H.R. 1108 properly bans deceptive “low-tar”, “light” and “mild” brand descriptors for cigarettes, the bill simultaneously perpetuates this deadly
consumer health myth/fraud (also incorrectly believed by about 85% of smokers) that some cigarettes are safer than others by failing to warn smokers that all cigarettes are equally hazardous, and by authorizing and paving the way for the FDA to establish deceptive cigarette emission standards based upon inaccurate cigarette machine tests (which is what created the low-tar/lights safer cigarette myth/fraud several decades ago under FTC oversight).

Also, in sharp contrast to claims that H.R. 1108 would halt tobacco industry marketing to youth, Section 906(d)(3)(A)(ii) of the legislation protects the tobacco industry by prohibiting the FDA from halting tobacco
sales to high school students (by prohibiting the FDA from ending tobacco sales to 18 or 19 year olds), ensuring that millions of high school students will continue becoming addicted to cigarettes under FDA oversight.

Smokefree Pennsylvania strongly supports reasonable and responsible federal regulations for different tobacco products. But Philip Morris’ Marlboro
cigarette brand is the primary beneficiary of H.R. 1108, not public health nor tobacco consumers.

Since 1990, Smokefree Pennsylvania has advocated policies to reduce tobacco smoke pollution indoors, increase cigarette taxes, reduce tobacco marketing
to youth, preserve civil justice remedies for victims, expand smoking cessation services, and inform smokers that smokefree tobacco/nicotine products are far less hazardous alternatives to cigarettes.

Thank you for your consideration, and feel free to contact me anytime.

Sincerely,

William T. Godshall, MPH
Executive Director

#10 fakhri on 08.24.08 at 10:58 AM

tobacco free country..??? my country (indonesia) will suffer into proverty because #1 tax income gone. and a well known clove cigarette will only be a legend.
-can’t imagine that-

fakhri
http://blog.coffeecigarette.com

#11 kentucky rebel on 08.24.08 at 4:31 PM

I read some of what is said here and the man Bill underestimates the crooked politicians that are liberal and want to control every aspect of your life. He needs to look back to the days of prohibition. Damn government just takes and gives nothing back! The people need to realize as this country becomes more liberal it’s founding principles will be challenged and before you know what was to protect our rights will deny us our freedom.

#12 RockytheRealist on 08.24.08 at 8:51 PM

While there is legal precedent vis-a-vis the SCOTUS ruling concerning advertising the lack of any preemption in the current bill certainly opens the door for any city or county that does not derive any revenue from tobacco taxes (or does for that matter) to outlaw the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products in their jurisdiction. You may argue that this will never happen but I believe it will sound the arguements of the late 80’s and the 90’s when we all were cocksure that smoking would never be banned in a bar…..an adult establishment or in one’s private business. The Berkleys, Madisons, Boulders and Bostons ect. ect. in our country will lead the way. The anti’s are strong and well funded and extremely well organized!! Be prepared and do not be naive!!

#13 kentucky rebel on 08.24.08 at 11:37 PM

As a further case and point I see where the writer fakhri alludes to his whole country looking at a similar problem but it is pretty amazing that as I mentioned the liberal anti tobacco establishment leads folks to believe that clove cigarettes are marketed to young kids. I bet if you asked all the house representative’s what were the names of the clove cigarette brands the majority of them would have no clue! Dreams & Djarum are sold predominately in tobacco outlets. It’s a shame that speaking the truth in this country is no longer valued as it is not politically correct. But our wise representatives are not willing to ask for a full review of the facts. I agree with Rocky! Wise up folks the battle has just begun and I challenge the No Smoke Bill guy to not be so naive!

#14 koolkat on 09.07.08 at 5:53 PM

It would seem to me that Rocky does have a point as years ago I too remember folks thinking that smoking would never be outlawed in bars and clubs where smoking was prevalent. But today we find it being the norm anymore. So as the industry stands hostage to the anti’s I too could see this situation working out as Lou suggests. We really need to understand that the battleground is tempered with political correctness.

#15 dibro on 09.09.08 at 7:45 PM

Mcdonalds cheese burgers will be next.
Mcdonalds has been under the scoop for some time.
Don’t laugh this is not a joke.
Especially when universal health care is implemented.
We are losing all freedom of choice in America.

#16 TAZ on 09.09.08 at 8:53 PM

Was at a excellent trade show in Boulder, Co (Smoker Friendly Festival) where two very significant industry “in the know” folks agreed with the exact premise that is described in the article written for CSD. In a legislative panel they spelled this out exactly as portrayed in the Lancaster County article. Think about it the anti smoking group (really anti-tobacco) is unrelentless in their pursuit to eliminate tobacco! And moves about with very little resistance.

#17 TAZ on 09.25.08 at 4:11 PM

Philip Morris USA filed a lawsuit on September 24th in the US District Court for the Northern District of California seeking to overturn a San Francisco ordinance that would ban the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies effective October 1st. (Business Wire 09/24)

#18 Tobocatman on 10.02.08 at 1:53 AM

Wow – Great article I actually had this conversation with senior management last week at my company and they are pretty concerned as we rely on our tobacco sales greatly — we sell a lot of food but we just keep taking share in our marketplace because are just taking their eye of the business – more for us!

#19 TAZ on 11.25.08 at 6:48 PM

Found this today on the TMA site:

Connecticut: Bristol Officials Discuss Proposal To Ban Smoking On Newell Road
City officials in Bristol, Connecticut, are currently discussing a proposal by Bristol Hospital President Kurt Barwis to declare Newell Road a no-smoking zone, which if approved would reportedly be the first smoking ban on a public road in the State. Mayor Art Ward said that if the officials approve the proposal he would consider expanding the ban to cover streets bordering city parks, schools and libraries. State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal welcomed the proposal, saying that “[t]his is an important public health goal that’s on the cutting edge.” Meanwhile, a city council panel is drafting an ordinance that would ban smoking in outdoor public areas (Connecticut Post 11/21).

#20 TAZ on 12.08.08 at 10:26 PM

California: Lawmaker Introduces Bill To Ban Smoking In State Parks And On Beaches
California State Sen. Jenny Oropeza (D-Long Beach) introduced on December 1st a bill titled The No Smoking at State Parks and Beaches Act that would ban smoking in State parks and on beaches, with violations resulting in a fine of $250. Citing statistics from the Ocean Conservancy, Propeza said smoking-related items accounted for 38% of all litter found on beaches in the US in 2003. According to the California Department of Forestry, smoking causes more than 100 California forest fires and more than 3,400 acres of damage. A number of communities in the State, including Huntington Beach, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Malibu, Santa Monica and Solana Beach, have already banned smoking in local parks and on beaches (California Chronicle 12/2).

#21 TAZ on 12.12.08 at 11:28 AM

This just reprted by the Associated Press:

December 12, 2008 – BOSTON–Boston officials approved some of the toughest anti-tobacco rules in the United States on Thursday, extinguishing cigar bars and hookah bars and ending the sales of tobacco in pharmacies and on college campuses.
The Boston Public Health Commission, however, decided to give the bars 10 years before they would have to close, doubling the original proposed grace period for the establishments. Even then, the bars could seek an extension for another 10 years.

Boston is the largest U.S. city, by far, to move to outlaw smoking bars, which have been exempt from the city’s four-year-old workplace smoking ban.

#22 Bill Godshall on 12.12.08 at 6:45 PM

I’d be shocked if there are more than a dozen cigar bars or hookah bars in Boston, as that’s about how many are in the entire state of Pennsylvania. And the 10 year grace period allows those now open to continue for at least 10 more years, while just prohibiting new ones.

Boston’s ban on tobacco sales in pharmacies and on college campuses will affect fewer than 5% of tobacco retailers, and will have no effect of tobacco sales/consumption (as tobacco consumers will simply go to another tobacco retailer nearby).

This new regulation in Boston is basically anti tobacco grandstanding.

#23 Twin City Retailer on 12.12.08 at 7:01 PM

It really is just another example of government putting their nose where it does not belong. And yes the truth is slowly coming out that the majority of the anti-smoking advocates have used this movement mask their true motive of being anti-tobacco. I have read some of Bill’s literature and I may not agree with some of what he advocates but I do appreciate his desire to bring distinction to the differences between cigarettes and moist tobacco and other types of tobacco products.

#24 TAZ on 11.24.09 at 4:32 PM

I know when I wrote the posted article I had many tell me I was so off base but take a look at the following story I read today ob CSP.

Attack on Tobacco
San Francisco mulls proposal to reduce the number of sale permits by more than half

SAN FRANCISCO — Smokers are huffing and businesses fuming over a controversial new proposal to drastically reduce the number of stores in San Francisco that can sell cigarettes.

Since 2003, retailers selling tobacco products in San Francisco have had to apply for a special permit. The permitting process helps the city keep track of sellers and crack down on those vending to minors, officials said.

But now there are too many permits citywide—particularly in low-income neighborhoods—according to city officials and anti-tobacco advocates, who have created legislation that would greatly reduce the number of stores that sell tobacco, reports the San Francisco Examiner.

An initial proposal imposes a cap of 35 permits for each of the 11 supervisor districts—385 total in the city. That is a more than two-thirds reduction from the 1,097 stores currently selling tobacco products citywide, acccording to the newspaper.

The proposal would not take away permits from businesses, but it would reduce them through attrition until there are no more than 35 per district. Also, owners would not be able to transfer the permits when they sell their stores, said Janet Clyde, a commissioner in the Office of Small Business.

The proposal might limit options for smokers, but it would also limit tobacco exposure to children, said Matt Rosen, senior director of community programs for the Youth Leadership Institute.

The institute wrote the legislation and is receiving guidance the Department of Public Health.

The legislation is still being vetted and has not been endorsed by a supervisor.

“[Children] can see advertising,” Rosen told the newspaper. “They can see stores that are visibly selling tobacco and other kinds of products that aren’t very good for them.”

The Department of Health says limiting permits would be an extension of its “commitment to public health.” Last year, tobacco-related death and disease cost the city $4,310 per smoker, anti-tobacco activists say.

Opponents of the proposal, mainly from the small-business community, say the bill would severely damage the health of retailers in San Francisco.

For most stores, “approximately 30% of the revenue is tobacco-related,” said Jimmy Shamieh, president of the Arab American Grocers Association, which has proposed alternative legislation that bans new permits but allows a transfer to new owners.

The stores become “valueless” when owners cannot transfer their tobacco permit to a person who wants to purchase the store, Shamieh said.

“It will change the landscape of San Francisco as we know it,” Shamieh said. “It will make it corporate-friendly. It will be devastating to mom-and-pop businesses.”

The new initiative is the latest is a string of efforts by the sity to limit smoking.

Last year, San Francisco became the first city in the nation to ban tobacco sales in pharmacies. The law exempts supermarkets and big-box stores, such as Costco, that contain pharmacies.

Also, the city recently imposed a 20-cent fee on each pack of cigarettes sold to offset the cost to clean up cigarette butts from city streets.

Supervisor Eric Mar is also reigniting stalled legislation that would forbid smoking in a slew of new settings, adding to an existing ban in bars, restaurants, parks, transit stops and taxicabs. The bill would expand no-smoking zones to include farmers markets and the outdoor seating areas of restaurants, cafes and coffee shops. Smoking would also be prohibited while waiting in lines at ATMs, theaters, athletic events and concert venues.

#25 Bill Godshall on 11.29.09 at 4:44 PM

Restricting/regulating the number of cigarette retailers
is no more tobacco prohibition than state/local laws restricting/regulating the number of alcohol retail/serving licenses is alcohol prohibition.

Here in Pennsylvania, there are only 550 stores statewide that can legally sell liquor (i.e. state owned/operated liquor stores), while there are 25,000 cigarette retailers. So the tobacco business (like the liquor business) can thrive even if there are exponentially fewer retailers.

While cigarette consumption has declined in the US by 50% since 1982 (from 32 to 16 billion packs), the number of cigarette retailers (not including vending machines) has remained at about 500,000.

The proposal in SF would take many decades just to reduce the number of tobacco retailers by half.

The most effective way to sharply reduce the number of tobacco retailers (which I’ve long advocated) is to increase the annual tobacco retailer license fee to $1,000, $2,000 or more (similar to what was recently enacted in NY), which would quickly convince 10%, 20% or more of the lower volume retailers to stop selling tobacco.

Another way (which is increasingly occurring in other countries, and I suspect may soon be proposed/enacted in some liberal US cities) would be to require all tobacco products be kept out-of-sight by customers, which would encourage some retailers to stop selling tobacco. While I haven’t advocated this latter alternative (as I don’t believe it would achieve its stated purpose of preventing youth smoking), this could benefit tobacco specialty retailers as they would likely be able to get exempted from this type of law if they prohibit youth from entering the stores.

#26 Pa C-Store Operator on 12.01.09 at 1:55 AM

I think the point here is that many retailers would lose their business. I operate several stores in Pa. As an operator my stores rely on tobacco sales greatly. Over 45% of my sales are tobacco sales. I have spent a lot of time and money selling a legal product and with out a failed sting in over 6 years. Yes I have grown my other parts of the business but yet my tobacco sales continue to grow in spite of all the struggles other have as they lose focus. Bill Godshall, I understand your goal of having a smoke free environment. But I see the restricting of license’s in a different manner. If PA were to reduce cigarette licenses to 20,000 from your mentioned 25,000 what would become of the 5,000 locations, they would most likely close and this poses other damaging economic harm. Just a thought! But what if I were to lose a license.

#27 Bill Godshall on 12.01.09 at 6:35 PM

I would suggest that states and municipalities adopt somewhate similar licensing/permits for cigarette/tobacco retailers as they’ve done (since 1933 when federal alcohol prohibition was repealled) to regulate liquor licenses (for distributing, retailing and/or serving alcohol).

While the proposal in San Francisco would prohibit the transfer/sale of tobacco retail permits (from one retailer to another), a market based approach (i.e. allowing tobacco retailers to transfer/sell licenses/permits to others) would be far superior for everyone.

Many state and/or local governments limit the number of alcohol retail and serving licenses (and some local governments, including more than 150 here in PA, prohibit the sale and/or serving of any alcohol known as dry laws). Here in PA, the leading opponents of allowing more alcohol licenses are existing license holders (who don’t want more competitors), and licensed beer distributors have repeatedly gone to court to prevent grocery/convenience stores from being allowed to sell beer.

Currently in PA, anyone (except convicted felons) can currently obtain a cigarette retail license simply by filling out a half page application (providing name and address) and sending the State a $25 check annually, which is why there are 25,000 licensed cigarette retailers, with many licensed cigarette retailers selling very few cigarettes. The most effective and fairest way to reduce the number of cigarette retailers is to simply increase the annual license fee, which also would increase cigarette sales/revenues by retailers that continue to sell cigarettes.

Reasonable compromise policies can benefit both public health and different segments of the tobacco industry.

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