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MINNEAPOLIS — The National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO) is shifting its focus to legislative and regulatory issues. As a result, next week's NATO Show will be the association's last trade show.
The board of directors made the decision after reviewing NATO's purpose and mission. The move comes as a patchwork of tobacco regulations sweeps across the United States.
"While we have been eagerly anticipating the upcoming NATO Show this month, there was a consensus among board members that given the many trade shows available to tobacco retailers, this is the right time to focus on NATO's core expertise in battling onerous tobacco restrictions," the association wrote on its website.
Minneapolis-based NATO is the only national retail trade association that works exclusively on tobacco issues.
"The association will now concentrate all of its expertise in assisting retail members respond to onerous tobacco restrictions that are being proposed by government officials across the country on a seemingly daily basis," NATO wrote.
In announcing its decision, NATO cited the recent action by the Chicago City Council in adopting an ordinance that imposes a new tax on tobacco products (which is preempted by state law), raises the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21, bans tobacco product coupon redemption, and mandates minimum product prices and minimum package sizes.
The Chicago measures highlight "the need for NATO to concentrate all of the association's efforts to protect tobacco retailers from unreasonable, unfair and even unlawful tobacco regulations," it explained.
Moving forward, the association's work will include:
- Aligning with other national, state and regional trade organizations to respond to local and state tobacco legislative proposals;
- Reaching out to retailers across the country to expand NATO's current retail membership of 51,000 retail stores;
- Planning new educational seminar opportunities for NATO members;
- Offering tobacco legislative and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulatory seminars to other trade associations; and
- Urging the FDA, and state and local lawmakers to work with NATO and the industry to educate adults so they are not a social source of tobacco products for underage youth.
NATO has produced the NATO Show since 2011, bringing together 841 exhibitors, 3,481 retail and wholesale attendees and offering some 36 educational seminars, three of which featured keynote addresses by the director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products.