NYACS Welcomes Cuomo's Tobacco Force

Association to offer assistance in striking down black market tobacco trade

Melissa Vonder Haar, Freelance Writer


On Monday, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the formation of a Cigarette Strike Force to stamp out the rampant black market tobacco trade, telling would-be traffickers that "they will be caught and they will be brought to justice." (Read the full story here)

With the Washington-based Tax Foundation recently releasing a report that suggests some 56.9% of New York's cigarettes came from illicit trade in 2012, it's no surprise that the state's retailers are applauding this crack down: Jim Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS), told Tobacco E-News "welcomes Governor Cuomo's announcement."

The Strike Force will rely on its members--which include a number of state, local and federal agencies--to combine resources to track down black market trade. Besides supporting this move, Calvin said that NYACS would love to offer its own resources.

"With tobacco retail and supplier members from Montauk to Massena to Niagara Falls, NYACS is well positioned to serve as extra eyes and ears to augment professional information gathering undertaken by the participating agencies," he said.

Further demonstrating the state's commitment to combatting the cigarette black market, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office filed a $70 million lawsuit against Federal Express Corp. for shipping some 80 million illegal cigarettes to consumers in New York, joining a December complaint filed by New York City. The lawsuit alleges that FedEx made approximately 33,000 shipments of illegal cigarettes into New York between 2006 and 2012, costing the state $10 million in lost tax revenue – feasibly costing New York retailers even more in lost sales. 

"Whether cigarette tax evasion is occurring on a street corner, inside a retail store, out of the back of a truck, or in a remote warehouse, we want it stopped," said Calvin. "It's draining hundreds of millions of dollars in business away from licensed, law-abiding wholesalers and retailers; it's depriving taxpayers of untold millions in tax revenue to fund vital public services; and it's defeating public health policies designed to curb tobacco use."