To sell or not to sell tobacco: Who should decide?

March 10, 2016

A New York county executive’s plan to ban pharmacy retailers from selling cigarettes and other tobacco products is garnering mixed reaction from pharmacists.

A New York county executive’s plan to ban pharmacy retailers from selling cigarettes and other tobacco products is garnering mixed reaction from pharmacists.

Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz thinks his county should be the first in New York State to ban pharmacy retailers from selling cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and other tobacco products.

Editor’s Choice: Some independent R.I. pharmacies oppose tobacco ban

“The sale of cigarettes is incompatible with what pharmacies are supposed to do, which is help individuals deal with illnesses and diseases,” Poloncarz toldThe Buffalo News.

In 2014, CVS Health removed tobacco products from its shelves. Some other chains and independents have also stopped selling tobacco products. Since 2010, San Francisco has banned the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products from retail stores with pharmacies. Other cities in California and Massachusetts have enacted similar bans.

However, Walgreens as well as some independents still carry cigarettes and tobacco products. If the Erie County resolution passes, independent Dexter Leader Drugs will likely have to eliminate one position, the store’s pharmacist and owner Dan Rinehart told The Buffalo News.

John Norton, director of public relations for the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), said the Erie County proposal, and other similar measures, are a non-issue for most independent community pharmacists.

“Most of our members voluntarily stopped selling tobacco products long ago because they view themselves as healthcare providers, and didn’t think that fit in with their patient-focused image they were trying to project in their community,” Norton told Drug Topics.

 

Fred MayerNorton said many NCPA members were surprised that CVS’ announcement received so much publicity “for something independent community pharmacies had already done previously to little fanfare.”

However, Fred Mayer, RPh, MPH, Drug Topics’ longtime editorial advisor and CEO of Pharmacy Planning Service Inc., as well as a public health advocate who initiated the Great American Smokeout, praised Poloncarz’s proposal.

“We should give him a Nobel prize,” Mayer said. “He could save millions of lives.”

Mayer said independent pharmacists who are worried about losing cigarette and tobacco sales should instead get involved with getting reimbursed for counseling patients on smoking cessation.

“You can now get $100 per patient in MTM reimbursement [for smoking cessation counseling],” Mayer said.

Additionally, since it takes smokers an average of 13 times to quit, Mayer said many will return to the pharmacy more than once for counseling and supplies such as patches.