Melendi is general manager of De La Concha America, Inc. at 1390 Avenue of the Americas in New York City. He is also president of the New York Tobacconists Association and a Certified Master Tobacconist. His family has been in the cigarettes business for more than a century and he’s worrying about the next century, starting with 2011.

“I can sell a box of cigars for, say, $250 to my customer in New York, but he can go to Pennsylvania or the Internet and get that same box of cigars for $130-$150. High state and federal tobacco taxes are to blame. These taxes aren’t making people quit smoking cigarettes and they aren’t raising nearly as much tax revenue as the prohibitionists predicted; they just drive customers to other, cheaper sources. That’s when everyone loses – tobacconists, consumers and the state, alike,” he said.

Melendi is touring the state of New York, visiting tobacconists everywhere to create a documentary that he will first show to the Governor and state legislators next week before posting on his various sites such as @delaconcha and @nyta1 on Twitter, ipcpr.org, newyorktobacconist.org or his blog at melendi.com. He hopes the documentary will help reinforce what he’s been telling government leadership for months – high taxes are killing small businesses in New York State.

“Taxes on our premium cigars jumped to 46 percent before the federal SCHIP taxes raised them more and, last year, the 46 percent tax on other tobacco products – non-cigarette, including premium cigars – skyrocketed to 75 percent. We need relief before we all go out of business,” Melendi said.

Melendi has the support of the New York Tobacconists Association, the International Premium Cigars & Pipe Retailers Association, Cigar Rights of America and Tobacconist University in his effort to get A1093 and S3410 in the state Assembly and Senate, respectively, passed during the current session.

“The previous administration raised taxes on our products so high that the state became a parasite, sucking the life blood out of us. Instead of nurturing small businesses and the increased employment and tax revenues they generate, the state put itself and our businesses at a distinct disadvantage, compared with tobacconists in surrounding states and the Internet. We just want a level playing field, and we believe A1093 and S3410 will go a long way to doing that,” he said.

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