County executive calls for pharmacies to ban cigarette sales
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz is calling for a ban on the sale of cigarettes and electronic cigarettes at pharmacies in the county. Poloncarz said Friday selling cigarettes is incompatible with pharmacies working to help individuals with illness and disease.
"Someone can go into a retail establishment that has a pharmacy, go back to the pharmacy and get a prescription drug that is related to their smoking and then go to the front of the retail establishment or pharmacy and buy cigarettes. It makes no sense," said Poloncarz.
At a news conference Friday afternoon at the Rath Building, the county executive cited high rates of lung cancer cases in the county.
"In Erie County, there are on average 877 cases of lung cancer each year and 108 deaths," noted Poloncarz.
Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein, Anthony Billoni of Tobacco Free WNY, Dr. Anthony Fernando of Roswell Park's Pharmacy Services and Erie County Legislator Peter Savage joined the announcement. Savage will be introducing the proposal to the legislature.
"We have a clear conflict. It is undisputed that cigarettes, tobacco products are seriously dangerous and cause death," said Savage. "I'm very proud to introduce this."
A pharmacist and the owner of the Transit Hill Pharmacy, Stephen Giroux, also joined the county executive in calling for the ban. Giroux told reporters many independent pharmacies stop selling tobacco products more than 20 years ago.
"If these national corporations are going to be allowed to be in the healthcare space, then they ought to behave like healthcare providers that we are," said Giroux.
In 2014, CVS/Pharmacy stopped selling tobacco products. The proposed county ban would include retail chains along with pharmacies.
"We are looking to make pharmacies truly healthy spaces," said Burstein. "Selling tobacco products in a store associated with healthcare gives children the impression that these health-harming products are more benign then they actually are and snaring new generations of children into addiction."
Some counties in California as well as Boston, Massachusetts have already passed laws that prohibit the sale of selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in pharmacies.
"If we pass this law, we would be the first municipality, the first county in New York State to do so and to get one into effect," said Poloncarz.