Local Tobacco Ordinances

What retailers need to know and do.


Even the FDA has now confirmed through a study sponsored by the agency that social sources are a significant source of tobacco for youth. The initial findings of this Population Assessment on Tobacco and Health study indicate that minors rely on social sources 81 percent of the time to obtain cigarettes, 79 percent of the time to get cigars or little cigars and almost 77 percent of the time to gain access to smokeless tobacco.

Customer Involvement: It is just as important for retailers to urge their adult customers to call and e-mail local lawmakers, because their rights will also be affected, especially if the ordinance proposes a ban on the sale of certain tobacco products. Finally, retailers need to attend the public hearing held on the ordinance and testify against the proposed restrictions.

Opposing local ordinances is all about local retailers contacting local officials and letting them know that they are responsible business owners, they share the concern about underage youth having access to tobacco products, but that the ordinance will only serve to negatively impact law-abiding retailers’ businesses.

Moreover, it is imperative that retailers not wait until an ordinance has been proposed to contact their city council or county board members. Retailers should contact their local officials, invite them to visit their stores and, when they do, explain how their retail businesses works; discuss their dependence on tobacco sales for keeping their businesses afloat and for providing good jobs to local residents. Establishing a good relationship with local lawmakers and making sure that they understand the steps taken to prevent the sale of tobacco to minors are both key steps to take in order to preserve their business.

– Contributed by Thomas Briant, executive director and legal counsel of NATO, the National Association of Tobacco Outlets

This story first appeared in the March/April 2017 issue of Tobacco Business magazine. Members of the tobacco industry are eligible for a complimentary subscription to our magazine. Click here for details.