SF approves ban on pharmacy cigarette sales

July 29, 2008 11:13:19 PM PDT
San Francisco is poised to become the first city in the country to ban some pharmacies from selling cigarettes. It's a controversial vote that supporters say will light up debate around the nation.

Starting in October, it will be harder to find cigarettes in San Francisco. The city's health director says tobacco is dangerous and that it's the leading cause of preventable deaths in the country. He says it does not belong in places that promote health care.

"Would you expect to buy cigarettes in your doctor's office?" says SF Health Director Michael Katz, MD.

"I'm not a supporter of smoking. I just believe there wasn't a lot of intellectual consistency in this legislation. I felt like eventually, do we get to the point where we say 'Safeway can't sell Sara Lee, but you can go buy it down the street at another store?' I didn't really understand why we're singling out just some of the pharmacies here," says Supervisor Bevan Dufty.

But, perhaps surprisingly, smoker Tim Moore supports the ban.

"Well, it might give me more incentive to quit."

"After today's vote you will see that counties across the nation will do the same thing," says Katz.

This ban will affect 58 Walgreens, which employs approximately 1,700 workers in San Francisco and generates more than $7 million in annual taxes to the city.

The ban also affects seven Rite Aid drugstores and four independently owned pharmacies.

They say cigarettes are legal and if grocery stores and Costco can sell them, they should also be able to.

The first vote on Tuesday went 8-3 for the ban. A second vote, just likely to be a formality, will take place again next week.

The mayor co-sponsored this legislation and it is the first of its kind in the country and modeled after similar legislations in Canada.


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