New York Tobacco Vendors Fight Fees

An increase in the annual state application fee for tobacco vendors in New York could cause many of them to stop selling cigarettes and cigars, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported.

The whopping 900% increase for small vendors is currently part of the New York state budget. The annual fee is skyrocketing from $100 to $1,000 for stores with a gross revenue of less than $1 million a year; from $100 to $2,500 for stores with revenue of more than $1 million but less than $10 million; and from $100 to $5,000 for stores with $10 million or more in gross revenue.

With such a huge increase, the goal likely isn’t to generate revenue, but to decrease the number of tobacco vendors by 40%, noted Jim Calvin, president of the New York State Association of Convenience Stores.

Although, according to Matt Anderson, a spokesman for the New York Division of the Budget, the fees are, in fact, meant to bring in an additional $16.7 million for the State. Still, Anderson did not deny that a partial goal of the new fees is to reduce tobacco availability. “We view this as a public health issue,” he told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

Faced with the huge new fees, which are due by Sept. 20 and cover licensing for 2010, many Rochester-area vendors are wondering if they should stop selling tobacco altogether.

The New York State Convenience Store Association, with 7,700 members, is lobbying for a fee reduction, as well as weighing legal action. Calvin noted he’s hoping that the Legislature could reverse its action during a special session in September.

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