Tobacco Fees To Increase

The increasing cost of cigarettes in the state isn’t only affecting smokers, but it’s also hurting those who sell the product.

Come the start of the new year, convenience store owners will be paying a higher fee to register to sell tobacco products due to state lawmakers passing a new law in the 2009-10 budget. The old fee was $100 across the board, no matter how much tobacco the business sold. However, now the fee is increasing depending on the gross sales in the business of all products - including gas and other items not related to tobacco.

If a store does less than $1 million in gross sales annually the registration fee will increase to $1,000; for businesses doing sales between $1 million to $10 million the new costs to sell tobacco will be $2,500; and for places doing more than $10 million in business the new costs of selling cigarettes will be $5,000.

Nine associations representing New York retailers have jointly launched ”Operation Rollback,” an industry-wide drive to undo the huge increase in retail tobacco registration fees approved in the state’s budget. The groups included the New York Association of Convenience Stores, Gasoline and Repair Shop Association of New York, Food Industry Alliance of New York State, Small Business Congress, National Association of Tobacco Outlets, Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association, New York City Newsstand Operators Association, United 7-Eleven Franchise Owners of Long Island and New York and National Federation of Independent Business/New York all teamed up to fight the increase.

Locally, the measure has some business owners afraid if they comment on the registration fee increase they could face more retribution from the state for voicing their displeasure.

One area convenience store owner answered questions from The Post-Journal about the fee increase, but when asked his name he declined out of fear that the state could find another way to hurt his business for commenting on the issue. The owner said because of the fee increase, he will no longer sell tobacco come Jan. 1, 2010.

”Sure it’s going to affect my business because I don’t plan to sell them after the first of the year,” he said.

The owner said the state and federal government already make plenty of money from taxes, why increase the fee as well.

”The state and the federal government already take $4 from each pack sold,” he said. ”We make less than $1 a pack, and they’re taking $4 now and increasing the registration fee. It’s definitely going to affect me and it will probably put a lot of small businesses out of business.”

The Hi-Way Gas station in Jamestown said the fee will probably affect business because of the high volume of sales the convenience store does.

”We sell a lot of cigarettes. I’m sure we will get charged the higher amount because we sell so many,” said Curtis Nobles, Hi-Way Gas manager. ”We have the least expensive cigarettes around because of the volume we sell, so I’m sure it will affect business with the increase.”

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