By David Bennett, Senior Editor
Tobacco took a front seat at M-PACT 2017 as attendees on the last day had the opportunity to learn the latest issues affecting an important category for convenience retailers.
The session, Tobacco Outlook: Cigarettes, Cigars, Smokeless & Vapors, was a crash course in important tobacco topics ranging from government regulations to future policy considerations.
Thomas Briant, executive director of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO) provided a snapshot of the array of local, state and federal tobacco legislation that are being discussed across the country and the potential effect on the convenience store channel.
The threat of proposed local ordinances is the most pressing threat to tobacco retailers now, especially the growing quantity of proposed regulations being rolled out, Briant said. More than 700 local tobacco-related ordinances introduced during 2016.
“We’re probably looking at more than 1,000 by the end of this year,” Briant said.
A key component to combatting the stream of proposed local tobacco regulations resides with local retailers.
“Local businesses need to get involved,” Briant said.
Some things that c-stores can do are:
- get to know local officials;
- invite them to visit your retail store;
- send emails and make phone calls;
- engage employees and customers.
At the next level, 21 states have introduced some type of tobacco legislation so far this year.
Another organization that is impacting tobacco sales is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its deeming regulations, which have caused angst among retailers since they went into effect last August.
Another topic that Briant touched upon is FDA guidance on free sampling ban, which among other things, prohibits free tobacco products, parts or components. The sampling restrictions do allow buy one, get one free deals as well as coupons less than full price. In addition, the sampling policy does allow for membership/loyalty programs, programs with price discounts and business-business samples.
Another tobacco issue pertains to smokeless products. Earlier this year, the FDA is proposing a tobacco product standard that would establish a limit of N-nitrosonornicotine (NNN) in finished smokeless tobacco products. Briant explained the proposed product standard would require that the mean level of NNN in any batch of finished smokeless tobacco products not exceed 1 microgram per gram limit of tobacco.
Already, tobacco manufacturers are declaring that the low level currently is virtually impossible to achieve under normal production processes.
Lastly, Briant surmised that the FDA deeming regulations are a gateway to potential future regulations, which could include a ban on flavored cigars, cigarillos and little cigars, but with no specific timing on such a ban.