In the Empire Page poll that ended this past Sunday, 77 percent of those who participated agree that liquor stores ought to be able to sell cigarettes and beer. With the budget battles continuing in Albany, liquor store owners continue to recruit supporters willing to help them protect their monopoly over the sale of wine. They have convinced NY wine growers that allowing wine sales by grocers and others will not result in more sales of NYS wines. Since it is hard to find a decent selection of NYS wines in most liquor stores in New York that must have been a hard sell. The liquor store owners have also carried the day with members of the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Watch for my coming interview with NFIB executive director Mike Elmendorf on the Empire Page.
If New York allows grocers to sell wine, then logically it should also allow liquor stores to sell beer and cigarettes. However, if the liquor store owners carry the day, then I recommend Gov. Patterson consider this alternative: prohibit the sale of cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products except by separately licensed tobacco retailers. Tobacco retailers would have to pay a license fee as do liquor store owners. New York can establish a state tobacco authority like the state liquor authority to police the sale of tobacco products.
The logic for this is that grocers and convenience store owners who are not to be trusted to sell wine should also not be trusted to sell tobacco products. By requiring each tobacco retailer to be owned separately as New York requires each liquor store to be separately owned, we can stimulate the formation of hundreds of new small businesses.
Justice requires one or the other — either we have a system of free enterprise which allows businesses to compete within certain agreed parameters without creating artifical monopolies or we should create other monopoly business sectors in addition to the liquor store owners.
After tobacco products are separated out, next I would argue would be lottery tickets, which also should not be sold to minors and therefore should only be sold in separately owned stores. After that perhaps New York should follow Nevada’s lead and license sports betting and prostitution. We’d generate plenty of taxes and create lots of new small businesses. Isn’t that the goal?
Tell me if you see a flaw in my logic.