Convenience Store News

JAN 2017

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66 Convenience Store News | JANUARY 2017 | WWW.CSNEWS.COM Cigarettes + Cigars + Smokeless + E-Cigs + Other OTP TOBACCO T here is no doubt that tobacco is a more complex endeavor for convenience stores these days, thanks to legislation and regu- lation. But the overall category and its varied segments still reign as a major key to c-store profits. And so far, the outlook for 2017 is cau- tiously positive. Convenience store retailers "will welcome what comes out of a Republican Congress and this Republican president," according to political commen- tator and reporter David Gregory. Still, tobacco industry experts are advising retailers to keep active in the year ahead, encouraging them to get behind an emerging federal proposal to help ease the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deeming regulations — or more specifically, the Cole-Bishop Amendment to the House Agricultural Budget Bill, which would ease FDA application requirements for newly deemed products, such as electronic cigarettes, vapor and cigars, brought to market after 2007. The amendment would move the so-called "predi - cate date," or cutoff point, for new products to undergo the onerous FDA application process from Feb. 15, 2007 to possibly Aug. 8, 2016. If passed, the measure would grandfather in many products, espe- cially those in the vapor category, providing them with a less-complex path to FDA approval. The industry awaits this vote in 2017 under a new president who some hope might even repeal the FDA's authority over vaping products. "One might argue that it is unlikely that an admin- istration would completely repeal an agency regulation that is already in force," Boston University School of Public Health Professor Michael Siegel stated in his online tobacco blog this November. "However, President-elect Trump does not seem timid about threatening to completely repeal other health stat- utes and regulations, so I don't see any reason why he would be reluctant to do that with the FDA's ill- advised e-cigarette regulations." Also on the tobacco watch list for 2017, retailers are strongly advised to focus on proposed ordinances at the state and local levels. Anti-tobacco efforts are increasingly being felt at the small-town level to cre- ate precedent for larger campaigns. Groups have been pushing to raise the legal age to buy tobacco products to 21, ban flavored products, and restrict business per- mits for tobacco retailers. Such ordinances are only expected to get harsher in the coming year, according to Thomas Briant, executive director of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO). In 2015, there were 450 local tobacco ordi- nances proposed across the country. "[For 2016], if the numbers hold, we are looking at almost 650 — that's 200 more than just a year ago," he noted. NATO started its "Local Project" — an effort focused on helping retailers fight local legislation against tobacco — in 2012 because "we saw a shift in the anti-tobacco strategy," explained Briant. Now, with the anti-tobacco efforts exponentially worse, the Local Project has become the thrust force of NATO. In 2017, NATO is hoping more local retailers at the c-store level will reach out for help. The associa- tion has simplified the process for retailers to call and email their elected officials to express an opinion on a tobacco proposal; testify at local and state hearings on tobacco legislation; or encourage customers to stand up and be heard when an excise tax increase or other tobacco restriction is proposed. The Watch List What to expect as cigarettes, cigars, smokeless and vapor roll into the year By Renée M. Covino

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