The Value of NATO Membership

Andrew Kerstein, President

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In just the past two years, more than 20,000 convenience stores have been added to the membership rolls of NATO, the premier national retail trade association that specializes in monitoring and responding to FDA tobacco regulations and local, state and federal tobacco legislation.

The major chains that now count themselves as NATO members include Cumberland Farms, 7-Eleven, Casey’s General Stores, Circle K, Holiday, Kum & Go, Open Pantry Food Marts, Daily’s Convenience Stores, Xtramart, Ultimart, Murphy Oil Stores, Jackson’s Food Stores, Hess Corp. and Speedy Stop.

I often hear from convenience store members that the value NATO provides to c-stores far exceeds the annual membership dues. It is very common for convenience retailers to remark that the regular regulatory and legislative update bulletins NATO provides are more valuable and informative than what they receive from any other trade group. Additional feedback demonstrates that c-store members come to learn the critical importance of having the entire NATO legislative staff working to monitor and help respond to local, state and federal tobacco legislation. Finally, if a retail member has a question to ask about an FDA regulation or other tobacco legislation, there is no better resource than NATO to provide answers on regulatory questions or legislative issues. NATO staff can usually answer a question immediately or find the information necessary to provide a prompt response to a c-store member. At NATO, we know that convenience retailers need accurate information to comply with FDA regulations or state laws, and we make it a point to serve as the primary resource for retailers to obtain the answers they need.

Why You Should Join Now

For 2012, there are two other compelling reasons why convenience chains that have yet to join NATO need to do so:

  • Reason No. 1: The number of current and pending FDA tobacco regulations and litigation arising out of these tobacco regulations continues to increase, and retailers need to be kept up to date on the most recent developments to be in compliance with the law. There is no better source of information about FDA tobacco regulations and lawsuits than NATO.
  • Reason No. 2: In 2011, a number of local governments sought to enact tobacco restrictions or tobacco taxes. This trend of proposing local restrictive tobacco ordinances and taxes will continue into 2012 because many of the proposals are funded by $245 million in federal government stimulus funds as a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus plan passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2009. These grants are earmarked for tobacco prevention and tobacco control and are being used to support the passage of stricter local regulations on tobacco products and higher cigarette and OTP tax rates in cities across the country. NATO has launched a local tobacco advocacy project to expand the association’s efforts to respond to proposed local restrictions and tobacco taxes in 2012.

NATO’s primary purpose has always been, and will continue to be, the protection of the right of retailers to sell legal tobacco products to adults without unnecessary regulations or overtaxation. With the tobacco industry and NATO fighting on so many fronts from FDA regulations to state legislation and a new wave of local tobacco ordinances funded by federal grants, it is imperative that convenience retailers join NATO. For membership information, please visit

Besides its focus on regulatory and legislative issues, NATO also holds an annual tobacco trade show that is second to none. The 2012 NATO Show will be held April 24-26 at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. In a span of just two days, tobacco retailers attending the NATO Show will be able to walk a show floor filled with products from every tobacco category and attend exceptional educational seminars produced with the assistance of CSP Information Group.

As the president of NATO, I cordially invite you to visit to learn more about this exciting new trade show. And I hope to see you in Las Vegas in April for the NATO Show. In the meantime, please call or email me if you have any questions about membership.  

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