Ulster County Retail Tobacco Licensing Plan is Redundant

Regulatory Overlap From a Champion of Government Consolidation

KINGSTON, NY (10/16/2014)(readMedia)-- Ulster County Executive Mike Hein's new proposal to force tobacco retailers licensed by the State of New York to also obtain a county license is redundant and redundant, according to the New York Association of Convenience Stores.

"Just what the small business community needs – another layer of redundant regulation, and new fees to go with it" said NYACS President Jim Calvin. "Mister Government Consolidation has suddenly become Mister Government Overlap."

Convenience 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 location. The list of licensees is provided to the Ulster County Department of Health, which uses it to conduct annual field inspections to ensure that stores are not selling tobacco to minors. Any stores that do sell to the undercover minor face fines of $300 to $1,500 and possible tobacco and lottery license suspension.

In trying to justify a redundant county license, Mr. Hein claims that "20% of our state's youth purchase their cigarettes from a retail store," but published statistics from his own Health Department tell a different story. According to the state Department of Health's Youth Access Tobacco Enforcement Program report for the 18 months ending March 31, 2012, only three of 317 Ulster County underage purchase attempts were successful – a retail compliance rate of 99 percent, exceeding the statewide average of 95 percent. This data was furnished to NYSDOH by the Ulster County Health Department.

"In other words, despite what Mr. Hein is implying, in-store sales of tobacco to minors in Ulster County are rare," said Calvin. "But teen smoking remains a problem, because underage smokers get cigarettes from older relatives and acquaintances. More restrictions on retail stores won't change that. What's needed is a mechanism for taking tobacco away from kids who access it through social sources. But that would be politically unpopular, so our elected leaders default to bashing retail merchants."

"As parents, citizens and responsible retailers, we share Ulster County's commitment to preventing youth access to tobacco," said Calvin. "But we oppose layer upon layer of redundant regulation that preemptively penalizes legitimate small businesses for selling legal products to adult customers in accordance with state law."