New York Pharmacies to End Tobacco Sales

Could move benefit c-stores as new law takes effect?
Photograph: Shutterstock

NEW YORK -- Convenience retailers in New York City may see a bump in cigarette, cigar and other tobacco product (OTP) sales as a law that prohibits the sale of those products at pharmacies goes into effect Jan. 1.

The law that Mayor Bill de Blasio originally signed in August 2017 also included an increase to the minimum price of a pack cigarettes to $13 from $10.50. That part of the law went into effect on June 1.

The mayor described the larger goal as reducing the number of smokers in the city by 160,000 by 2020, according to Crain’s New York Business. At the time, the news agency said 550 pharmacies were licensed to sell tobacco products in the city.

When the Woonsocket, R.I.-based drugstore chain CVS opted to stop selling cigarettes at 7,700 stores in 2014, its departure from the market was seen positively by many in the c-store industry, which reportedly saw increases in sales as a result.

“Convenience-store operators tend to be schizophrenic on this issue,” said James Calvin, president of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, Albany, N.Y. “On the one hand, they don’t want municipalities dictating which trade channels can and can’t sell tobacco products to adults, because they know our channel could be next. On the other, they hope that some of those displaced customers shift their tobacco purchases to c-stores.”

Unfortunately, Calvin said historically, those displaced cigarette smokers “turn to the thriving black market rather than to a different licensed store.”

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