Later this month, the public will get an opportunity to weigh in on a Falmouth Board of Health proposal to ban tobacco sales in pharmacies.
“You have something that’s supposed to be selling you products for your health, and they’re selling you something that we obviously know is not for your health,” said George F. Heufelder, board member and director of the Barnstable County Department of Health and the Environment, at a board of health meeting last night.
Under the proposed revision to town bylaws, which has been scheduled for an April 22 public hearing, pharmacies would be barred from selling cigarettes, cigars, loose tobacco, or “nicotine delivery systems” such as “e-cigarettes.” Nicotine patches and gum, items designed to help smokers break the habit, would still be allowed.
The move would affect not only CVS and Rite-Aid, which together have three locations in Falmouth, it would impact Walmart, Super Stop & Shop, and Shaw’s, all of which have pharmacy sections.
Robert Collett, director of the Cape Cod Regional Tobacco Control Program, said 55 other Massachusetts communities have enacted similar bans, including Barnstable, Brewster, Chatham, Harwich, and Yarmouth on the Cape.
Board member John Waterbury was at first hesitant to consider such a ban because he regarded larger retailers as a more reliable safeguard against tobacco products getting into underage customers’ hands.
“I see those drug stores and the large grocery stores as probably being the most responsible people as far as checking on who they’re selling things to,” he said, “and I’d personally rather have them selling it than forcing the community to go to the local gas station to buy it, where the checks are probably not anywhere near as rigorous.”
Mr. Collett disputed that idea, noting that when the tobacco control program was more actively conducting compliance checks on businesses to verify that they were confirming customers’ ages before selling tobacco to them, “CVS was consistently one of the worst offenders in selling to minors.”
David W. Carignan, Falmouth health agent, said he has received only one letter from one local pharmacy in opposition to the proposal.