ALBANY, N.Y. — The New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS) and several member retailers raised concerns about a proposed ban on flavored-tobacco products in Albany County, New York, according to association officials.
In a press conference held in front of a Stewart’s Shop in Latham, N.Y., on May 28, Jim Calvin, president of NYACS, said the proposal, Local Law E, would ban the retail sales of flavored cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products (OTP) if the Albany County Legislature approved the measure.
Calvin said the Stewart’s Shop where he stood was “kitty corner” from an XtraMart c-store in Schenectady County. Under the proposed law, displaced smokers could simply cross the intersection to buy their brand of flavored product, defeating the policy objective and exporting the sales tax out of Albany County, he said.
“Rather than erecting a barrier between Albany County smokers and flavored tobacco, Local Law E would be a slice of Swiss cheese,” Calvin said. “To keep getting menthol cigarettes or cherry pipe tobacco, they would need only travel to any of the five surrounding counties. Or, they could stay home and tap into a vast online market for flavored tobacco and vaping products.”
“My Airport Mobil location is just down the road at Route 7 and Albany Shaker Road, half a mile from the county line,” said Christina King, legislative committee chair for NYACS and owner of two Albany County c-stores. “This ban would chase my tobacco customers across the border. And while they’re over there, they’ll also buy the gas, food, beverages and lottery they used to buy from me. As a result, I lose business, the county loses sales tax, yet smokers still get flavored tobacco. This law would do a lot more harm than good.”
Local Law E says that 5% of retailers statewide sold tobacco to minors between 2010 and 2012, Calvin said. But in Albany County, he said that the rate was less than half of a percent.
“The adult smoking population is not a captive audience,” Calvin said. “With easy access to border counties and online vendors, Albany County smokers will have no problem circumventing the proposed flavor ban, needlessly hurting businesses and taxpayers. We urge the Albany County Legislature to rethink the real-world ramifications of Local Law E.”
The proposed tobacco-flavor ban could push business outside Albany County's borders. (Map courtesy of the New York Association of Convenience Stores.)