'Mock Convenience Store' is a Smear

ALBANY, NY (01/11/2011)(readMedia)-- Statement by Jim Calvin, President, New York Association of Convenience Stores

The so-called "mock convenience store" set up by anti-tobacco groups in the Well of the Legislative Office Building today is a gross distortion that smears the entire convenience store trade.

- It creates the false impression that store operators display cigarettes within easy reach of children. Since 2002, under state law, tobacco products must be displayed behind the counter in an area accessible only to employees. We comply with that law.

- It creates the false impression that virtually all we sell is tobacco and candy. Today's convenience store sells a wide variety of products including tobacco, candy, coffee, prepared food, soft drinks, snacks, dairy products, beer, lottery, household items, newspapers, automotive supplies, and other merchandise.

- It lacks the signage that convenience stores display warning that those under 18 may not buy tobacco products and that the store has proper ID procedures in place, and it lacks the Lottery terminal that stores routinely use to scan the ID of tobacco customers to verify their age and prevent underage sales.

The majority of C-store operators are responsible business people. As parents and citizens, they share the community's commitment to preventing youth access tobacco. Through training, stringent policies and ID procedures, and use of technology, they helped dramatically reduce the incidence of underage sales in New York State over the past 10 years, as the Health Department will attest.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control have repeatedly found that most underage smokers get their cigarettes not from retail stores, but from adult relatives or acquaintances. Yet the health advocates say it's still our fault, claiming the mere sight of cigarette displays in our stores is what prompts kids to start smoking in the first place. By that logic, the lottery displays at the front of our stores are driving our youth to a lifetime of gambling.

We respect the work the public health community has done to reduce tobacco consumption. But the virtue of that cause does not entitle them to smear an entire industry of responsible neighborhood retailers.