By Christie Duffy
There’s mounting pressure on large pharmacy chains to stop selling tobacco. So far only CVS Caremark has made the decision. Their self-imposed ban begins in October.
“As we become more and more of a health care company — with our MinuteClinic, our pharmacists, our nurse practitioners — the role they play in addressing chronic diseases like hypertension, the sale of tobacco products would exacerbate those conditions which is inconsistent with our mission,” said CVS Caremark Executive Vice President of Chief Health Strategy Officer and General Counsel.
“Tobacco sales for their whole company generate about $2 billion annually. So this is a big hit. And a significant amount of tobacco sales take place in pharmacies,” said Congressman Frank Pallone.
But another other pharmacy chain, Walgreens, disagrees, saying “Retail pharmacies comprise only 4 percent of overall tobacco sales [and that] a retail pharmacy ban on tobacco sales would have little to no significant impact on actually reducing the use of tobacco.”
About a third of New Jersey’s municipalities already have laws on their books that restrict smoking in public parks and in other recreational areas.
A bill is on its way to the State Senate Health Committee that would ban smoking on all public beaches and in parks. Belmar has already done it.
“It’s very difficult to get those cigarette butts and the only way we could do it is to pick them up by hand, which is obviously very labor intensive actuvity. So it will keep the beach cleaner and healthier,” said Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty.
“We have come a long way. Eighty-five percent of people do not smoke so we are really catering to a small minority,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle.
Today the State Department of Health also commended CVS’s decision to stop selling tobacco and called on other large chains to follow suit.
But The largest tobacco company in the country, the Altria Group, says sales restrictions on their products are an “unnecessary inconvenience” for adult consumers. Further, they want electronic cigarettes allowed in most public places.
Gov. Christie has proposed taxing e-cigarettes the same way paper cigarettes are. Rich Levesque represents a coalition of 47 small businesses that have banded together to oppose the governor’s tax proposal.
“The coalition, one, believes the $35 million figure is grossly inflated. And this tax being added would really put a lot of these retail establishments out of business,” said Levesque of the NJ Vapor Retailers Association.
On Monday, a bill proposing taxing e-cigarettes heads to the State Senate’s Health Committee.