Save Our Stores Coalition Opposes Tobacco Sales Proposals

Published in CSP Daily News

NYC groups join forces against display ban, tobacco price, promotion restrictions

NEW YORK -- Representing almost 10,000 licensed tobacco retailers and more than 56,000 grocery-related employees from all five boroughs, leaders from major associations of small grocers, bodegas, newsstands and convenience stores join tobacco product manufacturers to announce the formation of the Save Our Stores coalition to oppose New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's tobacco display ban and tobacco price and promotion restrictions.

These bills were heard on May 2 in the New York City Council Health Committee, and the members of the Save Our Stores coalition testified.

"Our members do not need these additional tobacco product sales restrictions. We are sending a clear message to the mayor and city council: S-O-S--Save Our Stores--by not implementing these proposals," said Ramon Murphy, president of The Bodega Association of the United States.

Retailer compliance rates preventing youth tobacco sales in New York City have risen dramatically in the past 10 years, and are among the highest in the nation, and youth smoking rates have declined during this period.

"Speaker [Christine] Quinn has rightly said that compliance with existing underage access laws is very high. The city's efforts to reduce underage tobacco use should be focused on enforcing the existing laws and regulations designed to ensure age-verified sales of tobacco products," said Chong Sik Lee, president of the Korean-American Grocers Association of New York.

This legislative package places even more burdens on legitimate retailers, which could ultimately undermine the underage access prevention and tax compliance goals by driving people to illicit sellers who do not conduct age-verified sales, the group said.

At the same time, New York City cigarette taxes have increased dramatically, making cigarettes there priced the highest in the nation. This has created a booming black market that the current proposals will only make worse, said the coalition.

"Our small stores are part of the lifeblood of our neighborhoods, and if they're complying with the laws, there's no reason to saddle them with the additional regulations in these proposals that could put them out of business. In some of our areas, these stores are the only places to get produce and other necessities. If they go out of business, we lose lawful operators who employ people in our communities, and then the only ones who benefit are the guys selling illegal tobacco products from out of their trunk," said Jim Calvin, president of the NY Association of Convenience Stores.

"These proposals will impose significant restrictions, harming businesses and driving legitimate retailers out of business, which will cost jobs, and further contribute to illicit cigarette sales. The measures are at odds with the council's attempts to ease regulatory burdens on small business. We urge the mayor and city council to reject these proposals and help Save Our Stores," said Rob Bookman, of the New York City Newsstand Operators Association.

Members of the Save Our Stores coalition include:

  • The Bodega Association of the United States.
  • Food Industry Alliance of New York State Inc.
  • Korean-American Grocers Association of New York.
  • Korean-American Small Business Service Center of New York.
  • National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO).
  • New York City Newsstand Operators Association.
  • New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS).
  • New York State Association of Wholesale Marketers & Distributors.
  • New York State Gasoline & Automotive Service Dealers Association.
  • 7-Eleven Franchise Owners Association.
  • Small Business Congress Inc.
  • Teamsters Local 805.
  • Altria Client Services on behalf of Philip Morris USA, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. and John Middleton.

The group's website is www.saveourstoresnyc.com.