Tobacco Flavor Ban Unwarranted, Would Backfire

ALBANY, NY (02/24/2020) (readMedia)-- The across-the-board ban of flavored tobacco products sought by New York's public health community is unwarranted – and would backfire, according to the New York Association of Convenience Stores.

Cigarette smoking among New York adults was 14.2 percent in 2016, "the lowest in New York State's recorded history," according to a 2018 announcement by Governor Cuomo, while the high school cigarette smoking rate "fell to an historic low of 4.3 percent in 2016."

"Today's tobacco consumption rates are a concern, not a crisis" said NYACS President Jim Calvin. "Compared to the alarming teen vaping rate of 30 percent, they do not justify extreme action. In sensible policy-making, such distinctions need to be drawn."

In addition, one flavored tobacco product – menthol cigarettes – represents at least $380 million a year in New York State excise tax revenue. Since three-quarters of cigarette excise tax revenue is allocated to health care, banning menthol cigarettes would worsen the Medicaid deficit by hundreds of millions of dollars, Calvin said.

"If banned, flavored tobacco would disappear from our stores, but would remain abundantly available to New Yorkers across state lines, from Native American retail enterprises, from online vendors, and from bootleggers who feed a flourishing black market for cigarettes," he continued. "As it is, the nonpartisan Tax Foundation says illegal trade accounts for 55 percent of cigarettes consumed in New York. This drives business away from our stores, places greater demands on law enforcement, and thwarts the public health policy objective. Banning flavored tobacco would only throw gasoline on the fire."

"Moreover, only three months ago, the statewide tobacco purchase was elevated from 18 to 21," he said. "Before its effectiveness can even be measured, here's a radical tobacco product restriction designed to address the same problem."

"We share the Legislature's commitment to curbing youth access to tobacco products. In fact, our industry has achieved a 95 percent compliance rate on health department inspections using undercover minors," said Calvin. "But we urge legislators to reject this unwarranted action."

The New York Association of Convenience Stores is a statewide trade group representing 8,500 neighborhood mini-marts, bodegas and convenience stores, most of which are registered with the State to sell legal tobacco products to adult customers in accordance with federal, state and local standards. NYACS has been a NYS Department of Health-approved provider of certified underage tobacco sales prevention training for the past 18 years.