Saving Stores and Lives

Come inAccording to the NY Post, the “Save Our Stores” Coalition, which is backed by the tobacco industry, conducted a telephone survey of 100 NYC retail owners and managers and asked them what they thought of City Hall’s proposed tobacco product display restrictions and minimum price of $10.50 per pack of cigarettes.  About 70 percent claimed the new measures would harm their business, and 55 percent said they may have to lose jobs. Eighty percent said they also expect an increase of black market sales of cigarettes.

While we understand their concerns, that’s not what happened in other countries that implemented tobacco display restrictions.  In Canada, the initial financial impact was minor, even for small stores that rely heavily on tobacco sales.[1]  When tobacco product displays were removed in stores in Ireland, retailers did not see significant decreases in cigarette sales.[2]  Instead, when tobacco product displays were removed, youth perceived buying cigarettes as being more difficult and were less likely to overestimate smoking prevalence among their peers.[3]

The intent of the proposed legislation is to reduce youth access and addiction to deadly tobacco products.

Adult smokers will still be able to buy cigarettes.  They don’t need to see a wall of cigarettes behind the counter to know what they want or what a store sells. Ninety percent of adults who buy cigarettes are already loyal to specific brands, and they enter a store knowing which brand of cigarettes they want to buy.[4][5]  Meanwhile, product display restrictions have been shown to reduce youth smoking rates.[6]

The proposed legislation won’t just set a price floor for a pack of cigarettes, but also work to reduce smuggling by increasing penalties for retailers who possess, traffic or sell illegal cigarettes.  Right now, honest retailers are being undercut by retailers who profit from selling illegal cigarettes.  These new measures will target and crack down on cigarette smuggling operations as well as dealers who try to sell illegal cigarettes outside of retail stores.

Currently, the Department of Finance reports that half of inspected NYC retail stores are selling illegal cigarettes.  Honest retailers just can’t compete.  Under the proposed legislation, retailers who play by the rules will be protected and not be undercut by retailers profiting from the sale of illegal cigarettes.

We believe these new tobacco control efforts will not only save stores, but also save lives and protect our youth.

[1] GeorgeThompson, et al., Evidence and Argument on Tobacco Retail Displays: Marketing an Addictive Drug to Children, 121:1276 Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association 87, 90 (2008).

[2] Quinn C, Lewis S, Edwards R. McNeill A., Economic evaluation of the removal of tobacco promotional displays in Ireland. Tob Control 2010.

[3] McNeill A, Lewis S. Quinn C, Mulcahy M, Clancy L, Hastings G, et al.  Evaluation of the removal of point-of-sale tobacco displays in Ireland. Tob Control 2011; 20(2): 137-143.

[4] Melanie Wakefield, et al, Adult Smokers’ use of point-of-sale displays to select cigarette brands, August N.Z.J. Public Health 30 (5): 483-4 (2006).

[5] Pollay R. Targeting youth and concerned smokers: evidence from Canadian tobacco industry documents. Tob Control. 1999;9:136-47

[6] Hammond D., Judicial review challenges against legislation prohibiting the display of tobacco products in the United Kingdom: Second supplemental report. Expert Witness report submitted on behalf of the UK Department of Health. December 2011.