D.C. C-Stores Brace for Menthol Ban

Retailers see fewer trips, lower basket rings ahead.

July 06, 2021

Smoking Cigarette

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Convenience store operators say the District of Columbia city council’s pending ban on flavored tobacco products will hurt their businesses and do little to cut down on tobacco use, reports the Washington Examiner.

Last week, the district council voted 8-5 to approve a bill that bans the sale of flavored tobacco products, including those with menthol, and Mayor Muriel Bowser is expected to sign the bill into law.

“They’re taking out essentially 40% of my business,” Dennis Alloy, owner of three gas station/convenience stores in Washington, told the Examiner. “If I don’t sell it, I’ll just lose business to the suburbs.”

Retailers expect the ban to dent sales of other items since tobacco customers also buy food, drinks, lottery tickets and gasoline. Alloy expects overall sales to take a big hit based on his experience with the nearly $5-per-pack cigarette tax the district government imposed in October 2018.

“My gas volume dropped by nearly one-third when that went into effect,” Alloy said. “Commuters realized they could just go up the road to Maryland or Virginia where [cigarettes] are cheaper.”

Menthol tobacco cigarettes will still be legal in Maryland and Virginia when D.C.’s ban goes into effect, and Alloy expects customers to continue to cross state lines.

As NACS Daily reported last month, D.C. officials believe the ban will cost the city at least $13.9 million in lost tax revenue over the next four years. In April, NACS Daily reported that the FDA is exploring a nationwide ban on menthol cigarettes within the next year and a possible move to prohibit all flavors—including menthol—in cigars.

To read about NACS’ federal advocacy efforts related to tobacco sales, visit our Tobacco Advocacy page.