Graham Gal: Knowledge of economics said lacking
To the editor:
In a recent article on the discussion of tobacco regulations in Amherst, a Board of Health member was quoted as saying that the drop of revenue for a store in Turners Falls when restrictions were placed on the sale of cheap cigars was good evidence that restrictions were a good idea. While this may be a knowledgeable voice on health issues it is clear that a knowledge of economics is lacking.
There is an issue that needs to be considered to make this statement valid. First, were sales statewide (or even in the area of this store’s customers) of cigars reduced by a large proportion of the sales at this store? In other words, did all or most of their customers stop buying cigars or simply go elsewhere?
Did the regulations actually deter the purchase of tobacco products? The answer to this may be in the comment made by the owner of the Turners Falls store. The store reported a drop of revenue of 70 percent. Now, unless 70 percent of the store’s revenue was for these cigars this means that a person buying these cigars is also purchasing other items.
Are the customers going without these items as well, or are they going to other places to purchase these items? So when they go elsewhere to buy these products are they now forgoing the purchase of tobacco? The owner surmised that Greenfield stores were benefiting. I do not smoke and so these regulations may not have any impact on me; however they might. As a free society we seem to allow some of these and not others. As long as I do not have to smell the cigars or cigarettes or pipes, that is fine with me. Passing these regulations would not be a deterrent to purchasing these products, it would only move their purchase to another location and hurt businesses in Amherst. And then who knows, require us to consider another override.
Graham Gal is an associate professor at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass.