Massachusetts Medical Society: Tobacco-Free Pharmacies Talking Points

Tobacco-Free Pharmacies Talking Points

Annual Burden of Tobacco in Massachusetts 

  • 7,200 kids (under 18) become new daily smokers every year
  • 9,000 adults die each year from smoking (another 880 die from exposure to secondhand smoke)
  • $3.53 billion in direct health care costs in Massachusetts caused by smoking
  • $194.6 million spent by the tobacco industry on marketing in Massachusetts  

Current Efforts in Massachusetts

  • For several years, the American Lung Association of New England and our Medical and Scientific Branch have requested chain pharmacies to voluntarily ban tobacco sales from their establishments (which they have refused), led efforts to pass local ordinances in cities and towns, and advocated to pass a statewide law making pharmacies tobacco-free.  
  • In 2008, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to adopt a tobacco-free pharmacy law. 
  • In Massachusetts, Boston, Everett, Fall River, Lancaster, Needham, Newton, Oxford, Southboro and Walpole have all banned tobacco from being sold in independent pharmacies and stores containing pharmacies.
  • Senator Susan Fargo and Representative Sean Garballey have both filed state legislation to prohibit the sale of all tobacco products in facilities where health care professionals are employed throughout Massachusetts.  The bill numbers are S1094 and H 591 and titled An Act Restricting the Sale of Tobacco Products at Locations where Health Professionals are Employed.

Why Cigarettes and Pharmacies Don't Mix

  • Community pharmacists are one of the most trusted health care professionals and are an important part of the health care team. As part of our health care delivery system, pharmacies, like hospitals and clinics, should be prohibited from selling tobacco products.
  • It is a conflict of interest for pharmacies, providers of health care, to profit from the sale of harmful products known to cause cancer, heart and pulmonary diseases.
  • Selling tobacco in pharmacies also contradicts the "Pharmacist Code of Ethics," a code which clearly states that pharmacists must promote the good of every patient. Physicians, who write prescriptions, also have the same obligations to their patients' safety.  
  • The tobacco industry has actively recruited businesses that house pharmacies to sell tobacco products, oppose tobacco control legislation, and emphasize profit motives over health. 

Addressing Concerns

  • Will banning tobacco sales in pharmacies actually reduce smoking rates or tobacco use?
  • Our goal in removing tobacco products from pharmacies is to denormalize these products and send a clear message that health care facilities do not promote tobacco use.
  • Smokers trying to quit can go into a pharmacy knowing they will not have to see tobacco products sold next to cessation treatments designed to help their efforts to quit.  

Will a ban on tobacco sales hurt pharmacies economically?

  •  As a percentage of total sales in pharmacies, the sale of tobacco products is not a vital revenue stream.  Tobacco product sales by pharmacies and drug stores have low margins and typically make up less than 1 percent of their total sales .
  • Of the independently-owned pharmacies that are tobacco-free, 88% report they have experienced either no loss or an increase in business since removing tobacco from their shelves . 

Is banning tobacco sales in pharmacies a "slippery slope" (i.e. if you can ban tobacco, what is stopping you from banning fatty foods?)?

  • The difference between tobacco products and alcohol or food with high fat and sugar content is that there is no safe level of tobacco use.  Food and alcohol, consumed in moderation, does not pose a health risk.  

Are legislative bans of tobacco sales discriminatory and an excessive intrusion of government?

  • Individual states have rules governing the sale of tobacco including disallowance of tobacco vending machines and in the form of single cigarettes, and prohibition of sales to individuals younger than 18 years. 

(courtesy of the American Lung Association of New England)

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