US Pharm. 2008;33(10):1.

Smoking is a tough habit to break; some may even say it is an addiction. While the debate over whether it is a habit or an addiction lingers on, there is no shortage of medical literature proving it is hazardous to your health. The medical literature is loaded with studies supporting the fact that smoking weakens the immune system, which leaves a smoker more prone to a host of complications like increased risk of infections, illnesses that last longer, greater complications from surgery, lower bone density, and a long list of other problems. Then there are the risks of cancer and heart-related problems. There seems to be no end to what smoking does to the human body.

To say smoking is a health hazard understates the toxic and sometimes lethal nature of cigarettes and tobacco products. Even the Surgeon General developed warnings to put on cigarette packaging that talk about smoking causing lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and complications of pregnancy. I guess that's why I'm shocked that many pharmacies professing to be bastions of good health continue to sell this poisonous product; it just makes no sense. Well, now at least one major city has put a formal end to it.

San Francisco became the first city in the U.S. to pass a law making the sale of tobacco products at most pharmacies illegal. The law was passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors by an 8 to 3 vote, with some of the lawmakers predicting that it could lead to banning the sale of tobacco products at other locations throughout the city; however, I don't think they went far enough. Some stores that have pharmacy departments, like big box stores and supermarkets, were exempt from the legislation.

According to an article that appeared in the online version of the San Francisco Chronicle (, two large drug chains that do business in the city are crying foul that the law is unfair because they were singled out by the ban. Their stance is that it should be the customer's decision as to whether or not they buy tobacco products in their stores, and that the stores should not be forced into banning their sale. They are considering legal action against the ban. It amazes me that these are the same companies that spend big advertising bucks trying to convince the public that their pharmacists are concerned about their customers' health. There is a definite disconnect; you cannot have it both ways.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I do not smoke and perhaps some would say that taking the position I do in supporting a law that bans the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies is too easy for me. To those critics, I say this is not about whether one smokes or not. This is about trying to present a professional image of pharmacy to the public. It is about promoting good health. Selling any product that is a proven health hazard is diametrically opposed to that image. And while this particular article singles out a couple of drug chains that are complaining, there are still many independent pharmacies I've visited that still sell tobacco products.

It all boils down to perception and image. How would you feel about visiting a doctor who has a cigarette dangling out of his mouth while he examines you? Pharmacies that continue to sell cigarettes present an image that taints the entire profession and they should cease this practice immediately.

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