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ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- The NACS Government Relations Board Committee unanimously voted to oppose Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and Sen. Ted Kennedy's (D-Mass.) new bill to permit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate the manufacturing, wholesaling, distributing and retailing of tobacco as it was introduced.
"Although the authors indicated that retailers' concerns were addressed in this new bill, they fell short in several areas and did not deal with some major points of contention at all," said Sam Turner, chairman of the NACS Government Relations Board Committee. "Without changes to the DeWine-Kennedy bill, NACS will oppose this legislation. We have drafted several changes that, if included, could dramatically change our opinion. We are working proactively on those changes."
It is NACS's opinion that the fundamental problems with the Kennedy-DeWine bill are:
It is not comprehensive. To be comprehensive, all retailers of tobacco, including those selling over the Internet, through the mail, through adult-only locations and on Indian reservations, must abide by the same regulations. This bill does not do that. Further, the bill does not specify how the law will be enforced (by state, local or federal authorities), thereby neglecting the issue of Native sovereignty and enforcement on tribal lands (to which all consumers have access through the Internet).
It is unfair to responsible retailers. If a company trains its associates in an agreed-upon age-verification course, that company should not lose its tobacco license if a trained associate makes a mistake (knowingly or accidentally). If the company is irresponsible and does not prepare its associates properly, only then should the store have its tobacco license suspended.
There are no penalties for minors. Attempted illegal transactions are initiated by minors, not retailers. There should be adequate penalties to discourage both supply and demand of underage tobacco consumption.
In addition, according to NACS, this legislation lacks provisions to allow for easier electronic age verification for retailers choosing to use this tool. There are also advertising restrictions, which could negatively impact signage inside a store since it may be visible from outside the store.
"NACS is strictly concerned with the retailing provisions in this legislation and until these provisions are fixed appropriately, NACS will continue to fight against passage of this legislation," said Allison Shulman, NACS director of government affairs.