As of October 1, 2008, San Francisco will be the first city in the nation to ban the sale of tobacco products at most pharmacies. (The law bans the sale of all tobacco products at pharmacies in the city, but big-box stores like Costco and supermarkets like Safeway will still be allowed to sell tobacco.) Nearby Marin County officials are already crafting similar legislation and are carefully watching the implementation of San Francisco's ban.
Those of us in tobacco control have lobbied long and hard for pharmacies across the country to prohibit the selling of tobacco products and we applaud San Francisco's Mayor Gavin Newsom for pushing through this legislation. Mayor Newsom plans to analyze the effect of the new law before expanding it to other stores in the city.
The prototype for such a ban has been established. Over ten years ago, pharmacists in Canada adopted the position that selling tobacco products is incompatible with their health care responsibilities and declared that domestic and international codes of
practice mandated that all health professionals call on pharmacies to disengage from tobacco commerce. Ontario banned the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies in 1994. Since then, seven Canadian provinces and territories have legislated an end to the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies. Pharmacy sales of tobacco products are also banned in the United Kingdom, France and Italy. There is no evidence of adverse economic impact on pharmacy revenues.
The World Health Organization and other health authorities promote comprehensive strategies to reduce tobacco use such as severely restricted tobacco advertisements, health warnings prominently displayed on all tobacco products, and banning sales to young persons. These and other measures to reduce tobacco use (such as high taxes and bans on smoking in workplaces and public places) have all been proven to be effective on decreasing tobacco use. Banning the sale of tobacco in pharmacies is an important part of a public health strategy to reduce smoking. California was the first state to enact smoke free legislation. It is my fervent hope that as with the clean air acts, the rest of the country will follow San Francisco's example!
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