Smoking Bans: A Bigger Threat
By Thomas A. Briant

The industryís leading legislative threat in 2006 wonít be taxes.

2006 Legislative Landscape
With the 2005 legislative year over, we turn our attention to the legislative battles that NATO and the industry will confront in 2006. Several trends that developed in 2005 may be a precursor to what to expect this coming year.

In 2005, only a handful of states passed cigarette and tobacco tax increases while the number of states that considered statewide smoking bans more than doubled. With the nationís economy continuing to grow, although at a slower pace, states are experiencing higher tax collections. However, the impact of the major hurricanes in the south and Gulf Coast states may result in a decline in state tax revenues.

In this economic environment, NATO is gearing up for another year that will see some states continue to pursue cigarette and tobacco tax increases. Even so, the real battleground issue may be statewide smoking bans since so many of the proposed bans did not become law in the 20 states that considered such bills in 2005. These bills may be carried over from this year into the 2006 legislative session or entirely new bills might be introduced banning smoking in most public places.

Several other tobacco issues that will surely be debated in numerous states are a ban on flavored tobacco products, increasing the legal age above 18 and Internet cigarette and tobacco sales. As these issues arise, NATO will be working on all of these legislative matters.

2006 NATO Board Candidates
Every year in December, new NATO board members are elected. This year, five NATO retail board seats are open along with three manufacturer seats. Election ballots were mailed to all NATO members in November and the results will be tallied in mid-December. The six retail candidates that are seeking the five retail board seats are:

  • Don Attilio, Cigar Cigar;
  • Velma Hartley, The Tobacco Place;
  • Steve Norman, Smoker Friendly;
  • Dave Kepler, Smokerís Choice;
  • Steve Millman, The Cigar Box;
  • Frank Armstrong, Blue Ridge Tobacco.
The five candidates that are running for the three open manufacturer board seats are:
  • Bob Culley, Liggett Vector Brands;
  • John Boehm, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.;
  • Dean Rouse, M & R Holdings;
  • Harry Preston, J.C. Newman Cigar Co.;
  • Mike Chiusano, Cusano Cigars.
2006 NATO Expo Gala
The 2006 NATO Conference and Expo (March 27 - 29, 2006) will include an exciting new event when the industry gathers in Las Vegas: the NATO Industry Gala dinner, to be held on the evening of Monday, March 27th at the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel. This semi-formal event will bring tobacco retailers, distributors, and manufacturers together for a major industry dinner and will include informative briefings on current tobacco legislative activity and the presentation of the annual NATO Pinnacle Awards.

The NATO Gala dinner is a throw back to the kind of large industry gatherings that were once commonplace among national tobacco-related trade associations. The evening begins with a cocktail reception followed by a first class, semi-formal dinner banquet with a four piece orchestra musical accompaniment. The program also includes presentations by NATOís executive director and president, as well as the announcement of the annual NATO Pinnacle Award winners.

Cigar Survey Nearing Completion
By the beginning of the new year, NATOís recent survey of its retail members - designed to collect data on which premium cigar brands they sell to their customers and the prevalence of walk-in and wall case humidors - will be complete. NATOís retailers sell many more tobacco products and accessories than just cigarettes and this survey data will demonstrate the broad range of products that tobacco stores offer their customers. Look for the survey data to be published in the next issue of Smokeshop Magazine.

New Associate Members Welcomed
New manufacturer and distributor members that have recently joined NATO include Business Machines Company, Sanco Products, Tobacco Import USA and Zippo Lighter Company. The support of these companies and the other numerous NATO manufacturer and wholesale members allows the association to remain the leader in fighting for tobacco stores and protecting the tobacco industry.

Thomas Briant is executive director of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO), Toll-free: (866) 869-8888, Web: www.natocentral.org.

SMOKESHOP - December, 2005