Smokin' Show

The first ever National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO) Show, held in April in Las Vegas, was a huge success. CSP, as the official media partner of the show, was there to document all the action.

Linda Abu-Shalback Zid, Senior Editor

Article Preview: 

A sold-out trade-show floor and attendees including retailers and wholesalers who operate or service more than 100,000 locations were just a few of the factors contributing to the success of the first ever National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO) Show. Commemorating the 10th anniversary of NATO, the show was held April 12-14 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. CSP, as the official media partner of the show, was there to document all the action. Read on for our coverage. 

FDA Looks Ahead

Center for Tobacco Products director addresses retailers, outlines next steps When it comes to tobacco regulation, Dr. Lawrence Deyton, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products (CTP), acknowledges there might be occasional discord. But as he told retailers and manufacturers at the NATO Show, communication is an important focus of the CTP—even during those times. “We want to establish a relationship of good communication and trust,” he said.

“We may not always agree on everything. We can disagree on things, but we don’t need to be disagreeable. And we need to keep communicating with each other about how this is all going, so that we can all learn from each other.

“Tobacco retailers are crucial to us at FDA to help keep tobacco out of the hands of kids.”

Deyton also outlined what’s up next on the CTP agenda:

  • Menthol. In March, the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee (TPSAC) reported that “removal of menthol cigarettes from the marketplace would benefit public health in the United States.” Deyton said, “The Tobacco Products Scientific Committee is just that—it’s advisory. … That committee’s advisory does not set FDA policy; FDA sets FDA policy.” CTP is considering the report and an industry perspective document, as well as conducting additional research. Deyton said the process could “take some time,” but he promised the first progress report will be available in June. 
  • Graphic warnings. Also in June, the FDA will issue a final rule on graphic health warnings, proposed in November 2010. Those warnings will have to be put in place by manufacturers in September 2012.
  • Dissolvables. TPSAC also will be looking at dissolvable products and will issue a report by March 2012.
  • Harmful constituents. In April 2012, CTP will establish a list of harmful and potentially harmful constituents, publish that list and begin educating the public about it.
  • Modified risk. Also in April 2012, the center will issue guidance or regulation on the scientific evidence to be used to assess modified-risk tobacco products. Manufacturers must submit information to the FDA proving that their products are modified risk, if they want to market them that way. “If they do effectively prove it and FDA agrees, they can market it as having modified risk. But we have to establish what those standards are,” Deyton said. When asked if it’s possible to prevent youth access to tobacco products without “complete prohibition” of them, Deyton said he didn’t know the answer. “The law says that these are legal products in this country. … I do think that big-picture goal is achievable,” he said. He reiterated that retailers are important to that process: “Your understanding of tobacco use, tobacco sales and tobacco marketing in this country is huge for us to understand, so we can together achieve those kinds of public health goals that the law intends for us.” —Linda Abu-Shalback Zid  


Building the Foundation

First NATO-CSP Tobacco Survey uncovers info from 11,000 stores

In the first session of the first annual NATO Show was another first: a NATO-CSP Tobacco Survey that will serve as “foundation research” for future industry use.

“The idea here is that we actually build a foundation, so we have some insights and facts for informed decision making,” said J. Michael Marks, managing partner of Melbourne, Fla.-based Indian River Consulting Group.

Sponsored by Swedish Match, the survey drilled down into the tobacco-category specifics of 160 c-stores and tobacco outlets, representing nearly 11,000 stores.

Cigars. When it comes to cigars, tobacco shops draw 23% of their tobacco revenue from this category, while c-stores are at 7%. Tobacco shops had an average of 430 cigar SKUs, while c-stores carried 59, according to results from the survey.

The research also looked at “most significant” new products in each category over the past 12 months. For cigars, there was no Secretariat winning the race—no single product garnered more than 5% of votes, according to Mitch Morrison, vice president and group editor of CSP. “Our survey actually found there was equally as much engagement and enthusiasm about some of the packaging innovation,” he said.

Pipe tobacco. In this category, the c-store is a “marginal player,” according to Morrison. It accounted for 1% of c-store tobacco revenues and four SKUs. In tobacco shops, it accounted for 7% of revenue. Tobacco shops averaged 31 SKUs of standard and 14 SKUs of hookah, with Morrison saying that there has been “an uptick in consumer preference for hookah” lately.

Cigarettes. The survey found that cigarettes accounted for 80% of tobacco revenue in c-stores and 51% in tobacco shops. Tobacco shops generally carried 238 SKUs, while c-stores hold 182 SKUs. Marlboro Special Blend “had taken off” with 28% of the votes. Morrison said he was also “pleasantly surprised” by Newport Non-Menthol’s 10%, because it was introduced only a couple of months prior to the survey. However, pricing incentives could be playing a role, he said.

Moist smokeless tobacco (MST). The category accounted for 6% of tobacco revenues in tobacco shops and 9% in c-stores. Tobacco shops carried an average of 47 SKUs, while c-stores weren’t far behind with 37 SKUs. “As tobacco sets start to shift from a cigarette heavy in convenience stores, we’re seeing greater featuring of MST, both in terms of premium and nonpremium brands,” Morrison said.

For MSTs, Copenhagen wintergreen had 30% of the votes as a significant new product. While vibrancy is good for manufacturers’ bottom lines, they are also looking at what’s happening overseas and spending many advertising dollars to raise awareness, Morrison said. Retailers, he said, should be examining how they can be “piggybacking” on those efforts.

Of the significant new products in the survey, Morrison said, “You need to have the products that people want, but you also want to be able to surprise.” —Linda Abu-Shalback Zid 

NATO, Altria Examine State Tobacco Taxes

When it comes to state tobacco taxation, Thomas Briant (right), executive director of NATO, has identified two recent trends.

The first he calls “the dollar standard,” with roughly two-thirds of the 22 states considering cigarette taxes at press time looking at proposals of $1 or more per pack. “Gone are the days when we’ve seen a dime or a quarter per pack tax increase, which used to be the norm,” he told the NATO Show audience.

The other recent development was four states examining bills to actually lower tax rates. “We don’t often have the opportunity to talk about tobacco decreases being considered by state legislatures,” Briant said. New Hampshire was considering two bills: one that could drop cigarette tax rates 10 cents per pack and another to drop the taxes 98 cents. New Jersey was considering a 30-cent-per-pack reduction, and Rhode Island was considering a $1-per-pack reduction. Oregon was considering an other tobacco product (OTP) reduction, but that could be offset by a proposed increased cigarette tax.

Bruce Gates, senior vice president of external affairs for Altria Client Services, said Altria has been helping New Hampshire retailers get the message of “my business wins with more revenue” out to legislators.

While large retailers have depth and scope, Gates said, many independents are the “lifeblood” of their communities, and both should play an active role in issues such as taxation. “It doesn’t matter what size you are, how many employees you have, how many stores you have,” he said. “It is important that everyone stay involved.”

Customers are also an important part of the process, Briant said; NATO provides customer alerts to help retailers communicate with customers. “We drill it down to the customer level,” he said. “You’ve got to use this network within your own stores, because your customers are as concerned about a tax increase as you are.” —Linda Abu-Shalback Zid  


Click here to download full article