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SF supervisors OK cigarette ban at pharmacies

Walgreens tried to stop a citywide tobacco sale ban. (ABC7)

September 28, 2010 5:29:19 PM PDT
San Francisco supervisors today gave final approval to expand the city's ban on tobacco sales at stores with pharmacies but postponed a vote on overturning a mayoral veto of a fee on alcohol wholesalers.

An expansion of the city's ban on tobacco sales at stores with pharmacies -- which would include grocery and big-box stores such as Safeway, Lucky and Costco -- was approved at a second board vote this afternoon, and Mayor Gavin Newsom's office indicated the mayor will sign it.

Supporters have said that cigarette sales at stores that also sell medicines sends a mixed message, particularly to youth.

The initial law, approved in 2008, was challenged by Walgreen Co., which argued that the exemption for larger stores was unconstitutional.

Newsom spokesman Tony Winnicker said today that the courts are "likely to require" the San Francisco law to include grocery and big-box stores in the ban.

Newsom remained concerned about the new law's impact on "some small grocers" in the city, but he's "inclined to sign it," Winnicker said.

The alcohol fee measure, which was strongly opposed by restaurant and bar owners in the city, would impose a 35-cent fee for every gallon of beer sold by wholesalers in the city, a $1 fee for every gallon of wine, and a $3.20 fee for every gallon of hard alcohol. Small businesses would get a quarterly exclusion of up to $1,000 in fees.

The money would go toward recovering the city's alcohol-related health care and ambulance costs, as well as alcohol prevention and treatment programs.

But business owners argued the fee would be passed on to retailers and consumers.

The board approved the alcohol fee by a 7-3 vote last Tuesday, with one supervisor, Michela Alioto-Pier, recusing herself because the fee would impact her wine business.

Mayor Gavin Newsom vetoed the measure later that day, saying it would hurt San Francisco's economy and discourage businesses from staying in or moving to the city. He also said the law could be subject to costly legal challenges.

The legislation's sponsor, Supervisor John Avalos, asked today for a one-week continuance on the vote to overturn Newsom's veto, "just to make sure we have the proper timing for this veto override."

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who voted for the measure last week, was unable to attend this week's meeting.

Avalos did not address whether he would be able to secure the eight votes needed to overturn the veto, but later said he would try to get as many as possible.

Avalos also asked the city's Ethics Commission to look into why Newsom, who also owns a stake in wineries, should not also recuse himself from the matter.

Winnicker said that Newsom has divested himself of his holdings in San Francisco but still owns a stake in wineries outside the city. He said that 98 percent of the sales from those wineries are outside San Francisco.

"There's no conflict, and there's a negligible economic impact," Winnicker said.

Winnicker added that there was legal precedent going back to former Mayor Dianne Feinstein being allowed to weigh in on real estate issues as mayor despite having real estate holdings herself.


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