NATO Sharpens Focus on Public Policy Mission

Will end show, concentrate on protecting tobacco retailers from onerous, unlawful regs

Frank Armstrong NATO

MINNEAPOLIS -- The National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO) has announced it will focus its resources exclusively on public policy issues at the local, state and federal levels and end the NATO Show, its annual trade conference of retailers, wholesalers, other industry partners and government officials.

“After reviewing the association’s purpose and mission, the NATO board of directors decided to focus all of the organization’s staff and resources on legislative and regulatory issues, which are critical to the success of our member retailers whose livelihoods depend on the legal sale of tobacco products,” said NATO president Frank Armstrong.

NATO is the only national retail trade association that works exclusively on tobacco issues, and the association will now concentrate all of its expertise in helping retail members respond to onerous tobacco restrictions that government officials across the country are proposing on a frequent basis.

The recent action by the Chicago City Council to impose a new tax on tobacco products (which is pre-empted by state law), raise the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21, ban tobacco product coupon redemption, and mandate minimum product prices and minimum package sizes, highlights the need for NATO to concentrate all of the association’s efforts on protecting tobacco retailers from unreasonable, unfair and even unlawful tobacco regulations, Armstrong said.

“We believe the alarming trend among governments to propose punitive rules and regulations aimed at our members and to restrict the rights of adult consumers will continue,” he said.

NATO’s advocacy efforts will include aligning with other national, state and regional trade organizations to respond to local and state tobacco legislative proposals, reaching out to retailers across the country to expand NATO’s current membership of 51,000 retail stores, planning new educational seminar opportunities for NATO members, offering tobacco legislative and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory seminars to other trade associations and urging the FDA and state and local lawmakers to work with NATO and the industry to educate adults so they are not a social source of tobacco products for underage youth.

As the NATO board considered the association’s future work, it also made a critical business decision that the 2016 NATO Show will be the association’s last.

“While we have been eagerly anticipating this year’s show, there was a consensus among board members that given the many trade shows available to tobacco retailers, this is the right time to focus on NATO’s core expertise in battling oppressive tobacco restrictions,” Armstrong said.

NATO has produced the NATO Show since 2011, bringing together 841 exhibitors, 3,481 retail and wholesale attendees and offering 36 educational seminars, three of which featured keynote addresses by the director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products (CTP).