Next target for tobacco ban: Grocery stores 

Two years ago, San Francisco became the first city in the nation to ban the sale of tobacco products in drugstores like Walgreens. Now, The City will consider expanding the ban to include grocery stores with on-site pharmacies.

The restriction is the latest in a number of proposals that has San Francisco moving toward being a smoke-free city. The City recently adopted legislation expanding the no-smoking areas throughout San Francisco, an effort to reduce the number of tobacco-selling permits has been debated, and an adjustable litter fee of 20 cents was tacked onto the purchase price of every pack of cigarettes.

The ban in 2008 prompted Philip Morris USA Inc. and drugstore chain Walgreen Co. to file separate lawsuits against The City to strike down the law. The legal efforts were not successful.

“Cigarettes and chewing tobacco are a tiny fraction of the products sold, and pharmacies should be selling medicine and helpful items, not items like cigarettes that kill you,” said Supervisor Eric Mar, who introduced legislation Tuesday that broadens the tobacco ban. “It sends the strong message that we are a city that promotes healthy living and stores should sell products with some accountability to the public.”

It’s unclear how many existing businesses would be impacted. Safeway, for example, has 10 locations in San Francisco with pharmacies, according to the company’s website.

Legislation enacting the ban in 2008 was introduced by Mayor Gavin Newsom and approved by the Board of Supervisors in an 8-3 vote. Opponents said the law would have little effect since within a short walk of these targeted businesses there are liquor shops selling tobacco.

The 2008 law drew criticism for being unfair in only going after one type of business while there are grocery stores with pharmacies that would continue to sell tobacco products.

Department of Public Health Director Mitchell Katz said at the time that the law focuses on pharmacies where “the case was the strongest” for the ban since they are “health-promoting businesses.”

The legislation would require approval by the Board of Supervisors to become law.

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