David Stanley calls on the APhA to begin a relentless campaign that will eliminate the embarrassment that is a tobacco-selling pharmacy.
You wouldn’t know it from my picture on the DT blog, but I’ve been known to stray from the strict straight-and-narrow path now and again. I’m no rock star, but sometimes after a day full of “Can you order back the Oxycontin OC’s?” and “My insurance co-pay has never been so high!” a little irresponsible entertainment is just what the doctor ordered to take my mind off the fact I have to go back in for more on Monday morning. I love the nightlife. I love to boogie. Surprising, I know.
But not as surprising as the words that came out of the mouth of one of my friends when we were out on the town not long ago. I was looking for a cab ride home, but he was looking to feed his addiction.
“I need some more cigarettes,” he said. “There’s gotta be a drugstore or something around here somewhere.”
A drugstore. That was the first thing that entered his mind when he thought of tobacco. All day long you and I fight the good fight to try and help our customers make the right choices for their health, and to a significant part of the public, we end up being their first thought when they want to destroy themselves. How does that make you feel? I won’t say which pharmacy ended up giving him his fix, but I will say its CEO was recently quoted in another trade publication as saying his goal for the company was to “own well.” I’ll also tell you his corporation sued the city of San Francisco when it passed an ordinance that banned tobacco sales in pharmacies, demanding the right to peddle tobacco poison. I’d love to ask him someday how being perceived as the go-to place for the leading cause of preventable death in this country fits into his wellness strategy. I doubt I’ll ever get the chance.
There is a solution though, and I was surprised to find it just might come through the American Pharmacists Association. I’ve taken the APhA to task before about its unwillingness to address the way working conditions in far too many pharmacies are creating a crisis that threatens our profession. But almost a year ago, it did take a stand on the tobacco issue, adopting a policy urging state boards of pharmacy to discontinue issuing and renewing licenses to pharmacies that sell tobacco products.
Now it’s time for APhA to back up its words. It has a shiny new building in Washington D.C., tens of millions of dollars flowing through its coffers annually, and lobbyists who are, one hopes, wise to the ways of a legislature. I’ll probably never have the chance to confront that hypocritical CEO, but APhA has the resources to take him on.
What possible reason could the organization have for not moving forward? The elimination of tobacco would have a far bigger impact on the health and wellness of Americans than APhA’s current headline projects, pharmacist vaccinations and MTM, and could combating smoking be less controversial? “Our challenge as a membership is to unify,” APhA’s CEO once wrote to me. What issue could possibly be easier for professionals to unify around?
APhA needs to begin an immediate and relentless campaign in every statehouse in the country to eliminate the embarrassment that is a tobacco-selling pharmacy; what’s needed is legislation denying a pharmacy license to locations that choose to sell tobacco. By doing so, APhA will take a small and long overdue step toward reclaiming the leadership of our profession from those who see it only as another part of retailing. It’s time to put a stop to those among us who want to be perceived as unique providers of wellness while simultaneously demanding to be treated just like any 7-Eleven.
When that day comes, I will be happy to join APhA. And when we succeed, we’ll all have a reason to party.