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[Testimony] The Chamber Urges Review of Board of Health Regulation on Tobacco Retail Licenses

Posted Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

Advocacy, Testimony & Correspondence


Tuesday, March 7, 2017
City Hall, 1401 John F. Kennedy Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19107

Testimony by: Yvette Núñez, Vice President of Civic Affairs, The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia

Good afternoon, Councilman Jones and members of the Committee on Commerce and Economic Development. I am Yvette Núñez, Vice President of Civic Affairs at the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia. Thank you for the opportunity to testify on Resolution No. 170057.

Much like members of this body, the Chamber shares concerns over smoking among children and teens, however regulations recently adopted by the Philadelphia’s Board of Health have the potential to harm local business owners along neighborhood commercial corridors. This is a cause for concern that merits additional discussion.

The Chamber’s mission is to attract, retain and grow jobs for the city and region. We follow principles of economic competitiveness to guide our public policy. We believe that government at all levels must operate in an efficient way to maximize the services that it provides, and The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia will work with other organizations to advance an agenda leading to economic growth and prosperity.

As it relates to Resolution No. 170057, we appreciate the thoughtful discussions authorizing the Committee on Commerce and Economic Development to conduct hearings concerning the Board of health regulations relating to the Tobacco Retail Licenses. After thoughtful review we discern the following:

  • Not all businesses and retailers are alike—they range in size, geography and profit. An increase in tobacco permit fees and a cap on licenses will hurt businesses while also factoring in cigarette tax revenue already levied at the state level.
  • These new Board of Health regulations stop any new granting of permits within 500 feet of Schools and create new density requirements as well as density planning districts that will prevent businesses from reselling their locations with the ability to renew tobacco permits; and grandfather existing retailers and permits issued or renewed before Jan. 1. However if a business is sold, the permit doesn’t transfer and as a result lowers the value of the business upon sale to new owners.
  • We caution against legislation that could have unintended consequences for our economy. It is unknown what the effect of this legislation would be here in Philadelphia. Philadelphia requires a $2 cigarette tax, and another $1 for state tax. If the number of businesses selling tobacco dramatically decreases, this will hurt a valuable revenue stream for the Philadelphia School District.

The Chamber urges thoughtful and deliberate analysis when considering broad business regulations. We are happy to serve as partners in guiding legislation so as to best effectuate a policy’s intent. We urge City Council to call on the Board of Health to:

  • Delay the density limits rule, which limits permits to a defined population area; and
  • Clarify when is the earliest a retailer can apply for a tobacco permit and when it will be issued.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify on Resolution No. 170057.

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