Operation Overlap: Albany County Legislator's Local Tobacco Licensing Move Duplicative, Unnecessary

ALBANY, NY (10/08/2014)(readMedia)-- ALBANY NY - Requiring retailers of tobacco products to be licensed by Albany County, as proposed yesterday in a press release by County Legislator Timothy Nichols, would be "a classic example of senseless government overlap," according to the New York Association of Convenience Stores.

"While everybody else in Albany is striving to reduce excessive regulation of business, Tim Nichols wants to do the exact opposite," said Jim Calvin, NYACS President. "He wants to create a new local bureaucracy to do the same thing the State and is already doing, while saddling small businesses with more fees and more red tape."

Stores selling tobacco already are required by state law to register with the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance at an annual fee of $300 per store. The Tax Department shares its database with the New York State Department of Health, which in turn provides it to the Albany County Health Department, which uses it to conduct annual undercover field inspections to ensure that stores are not selling tobacco to minors.

"Thus, if Mr. Nichols wants a list of Albany County tobacco outlets, he can call his own health department and they'll email him the database before lunch," said Calvin. "Why make a mom-and-pop business fill out yet another application and pay yet another fee – unless you're just trying to harass them?"

Evidence shows that local tobacco licensing does not reduce underage sales of tobacco, as public health advocates often claim. For instance, the rate of retailer compliance with the law prohibiting sales to minors in Dutchess County – which has a local licensing law Mr. Nichols intends to use as a model – is only 93.7 percent, whereas in Albany County it is 99.6 percent, according to the most recent NYSDOH published data.

"As parents, citizens and responsible retailers, we share the community's commitment to preventing youth access to tobacco," said Calvin. "But we oppose layer upon layer of redundant regulation designed to pre-emptively penalize legitimate small businesses for selling legal products to adult customers in accordance with state law."