Final Word: The Value of NATO Membership

Mary Szarmach, Vice President, Smoker Friendly/Gasamat Oil Corp.

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My family’s Smoker Friendly retail stores have been a member of NATO since the association was formed in 2001, and I have also served on the NATO board of directors for the past 13 years. Being a member of NATO is one of the best decisions our family has ever made because NATO is the only national retail trade association that works exclusively on local, state and federal tobacco regulations and FDA regulations.

If you are a retailer, wholesaler or manufacturer NATO member, you should be proud of supporting NATO. If you have not yet joined NATO, then I can honestly say you need to take a decisive step and become a member of the country’s premier retail tobacco trade association.

Why Join?

The reasons to be a NATO member are numerous and include:

 ▶ All-Inclusive: NATO retail membership is open to every kind of retailer that sells tobacco products, including tobacco stores, convenience stores, service stations, grocery stores and even liquor stores, as well as wholesalers and manufacturers.

 ▶ Specialization: NATO is the only national retail trade association that devotes all of its resources and staff to informing, advising and assisting tobacco retailers on tobacco legislation and FDA regulations. NATO is the best ally a retailer can have in protecting the right to promote and sell legal tobacco products.

 ▶ Legislative Advocacy: NATO was founded on the belief that tobacco retailers need to become engaged in the legislative process to protect the right to sell legal tobacco products in order to protect their businesses. NATO provides association members the information and tools needed to make sending a letter or calling a lawmaker a simple process that can affect the outcome of legislation.

 ▶ Local Project: It’s not just what happens on the national front that matters. The year 2014 marks the third year that the NATO Local Project has monitored and responded to proposed local retail tobacco restrictions and tobacco taxes. Since its launch, the NATO Local Project has helped hundreds of retail stores oppose restrictive regulations and even bans on product displays and product advertising.

Across the country, local governments continue to propose ordinances to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, eliminate tobacco displays from public view, prohibit tobacco coupon redemption, limit tobacco promotional pricing, set minimum cigar package sizes, raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products, increase local tobacco tax rates, limit the number of retail stores allowed to sell tobacco products, and ban self-service displays in adult-only tobacco stores. The mission of the NATO Local Project is to work to prevent these kinds of unnecessary and overreaching regulations from becoming law.

 ▶ FDA Compliance and Staff Expertise: The NATO staff has a wealth of knowledge about FDA tobacco regulations and rules and assists members in understanding the regulatory requirements and how to comply with federal tobacco regulations.

 ▶ News Resource: The NATO News Bulletin is an acclaimed electronic news bulletin that contains up-to-date information about pending local, state and federal legislation and FDA regulations. The information that retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers need to know is found in the weekly NATO News Bulletin.

 ▶ Legal Resource: When a member has a legal question on legislation or FDA regulations, a call to NATO results in a prompt response from NATO executive director and legal counsel Thomas Briant, or the association staff will find the answer to the question. Also, NATO takes legal action when necessary to protect the rights of tobacco retailers. The most recent example of litigation is a suit brought by NATO, the New York Association of Convenience Stores and several manufacturers seeking to overturn the New York City ban on tobacco-product coupon redemption and promotional product prices.

To join NATO, visit and click on “Join.”

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