A Message From the New NATO Executive Director

Spross takes over association following Briant’s departure
David Spross and NATO

I am honored to be the new executive director of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO). As a 23-year veteran of the industry, I have seen firsthand the growth of NATO and its strong voice in keeping its members informed and engaged on tobacco issue with federal, state and local regulators and policymakers in effort to fulfill its primary vision of protecting the retailers right to sell and purchase legal tobacco products.

My career in the tobacco industry began at U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. (UST) in the government relations department where I was focused on regulatory policies affecting the smokeless tobacco industry. My career at UST eventually took me into state government relations, where I engaged directly with legislators.

For the past 14 years, I held various roles in government relations at Reynolds American. My last role was overseeing the entire government relations department, which included federal, state, local government relations and the strategic engagement teams. This experience has provided insights on engaging with differing legislative bodies on issues important to the industry.

Throughout my career in tobacco, the regulatory landscape has become more challenging as well as complex with the onset of FDA regulation of tobacco products, and with state/local government considering high excise taxes and onerous restrictions such as flavor bans. 

At the same time, the industry has expanded its product portfolios using strong research and development backed by the science of tobacco harm reduction. These innovative products—vapor, tobacco heating, oral nicotine, smokeless—may present less risk than cigarettes. While no tobacco product is safe, engaging with policymakers on the relative risk of these products is critical to advocate for regulatory frameworks that support a science-based approach to tobacco harm reduction.

As the executive director, I look forward to continuing NATO’s mission of improving business conditions for retailers that sell tobacco in the U.S. Through its 66,000 members, NATO engages with elected officials to help them understand the important role retailers play in the economy and educate them on the unfair burden of high excise taxes and onerous regulations. NATO retailers have a reputable voice as these responsible businesses have been instrumental in preventing the sale of tobacco products.  

David Spross is the executive director of NATO, a tobacco retailing association based in Lakeville, Minnesota. Reach him at davidspross@nationalcentral.org.  To learn more about NATO, visit www.natocentral.org.

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