Pharmacies must ban tobacco from stores, says editorial

It’s long past time for pharmacies to separate themselves from the sale of tobacco products, especially now that many chain pharmacies are offering immunizations and other health care services, according to an editorial in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

The editorial was co-authored by Troyen A. Brennan, MD, who works for CVS Caremark. CVS announced it would be phasing out the sale of tobacco in its stores over the next year.

“This action may not lead many people to stop smoking,” wrote Dr. Brennan and Steven A. Schroeder, MD, of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at the University of California, San Francisco. “Smokers will probably simply go elsewhere to buy cigarettes.”

However, they added, continuing to sell tobacco products “would appear to sanction the most unhealthy habit a person can maintain.”

Pharmacies themselves don’t sell tobacco products but are often part of a grocery or other retail store that does sell cigarettes. That puts these stores in the business of promoting health, wrote Drs. Brennan and Schroeder, which is incompatible with tobacco sales.

The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) urged pharmacies to stop selling tobacco products in 2010. It also asked state pharmacy boards to stop issuing and renewing the licenses of pharmacies that didn’t comply, according to the editorial. The APhA’s statement was directed at both independent pharmacies and all retail stores that have a pharmacy.

The American Medical Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association also have asked pharmacies to take action.

After CVS announced its decision to cease tobacco sales, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius applauded the move.

“We need an all-hands-on-deck effort to take tobacco products out of the hands of America’s young generation, and to help those who are addicted to quit,” she said. “If we fail to reverse course, 5.6 million American children alive today will die prematurely due to smoking. This is unacceptable.”

“If pharmacies do not make this effort voluntarily, federal or state regulatory action would be appropriate,” the editorial concluded.

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