San Francisco WalGreens Fights Ban on Smoke Sales

Attorneys for Walgreens are seeking an emergency injunction to stop San Francisco from banning the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.

In July, San Francisco became the first city in the nation to ban the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies such as Walgreens and Rite Aid, saying that sick people getting their prescriptions filled shouldn’t be faced with cancer-causing products sitting nearby, the newspaper reported.

The ban, scheduled to take effect Oct. 1, doesn’t extend to grocery stores or big-box stores that also have pharmacies, which is why the company wants the plan stopped, Walgreens spokeswoman Tiffani Bruce told the newspaper.

"Our position is based solely on being fair across different types of retailers," she said, noting that smokers will just buy their cigarettes at another store down the block. "Our pharmacists are trained to counsel smokers on smoking cessation products and how to go about kicking their habit. This ordinance will discourage smokers from coming to a place where they can have this type of access."

Mitch Katz, director of the city’s Department of Public Health, wasn’t buying Walgreens’ logic.

"It’s one thing to say you’re doing it for the convenience of your customers, but to actually sue?” Katz said. “To say this is your right to sell the substance associated with the No. 1 cause of preventable death? It’s unbelievable to me."

Attorneys for Walgreens will be in San Francisco Superior Court today to get a hearing on their request for an emergency injunction to block the ban.

But San Francisco’s ban seems to be finding favor elsewhere, according to The San Francisco Chronicle. Boston health officials gave preliminary approval last week to ban cigarette sales in pharmacies, as well as on college campuses, cigar bars and hotels.

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