Cigarettes could disappear from Illinois drug stores under a new bill proposed before the state legislature.
State Rep. Marlow H. Colvin, (D-Chicago) introduced a bill last month that would prohibit the sale of tobacco products in hospitals, clinics and pharmacies. If passed, the bill would take effect in 2011. Offenders would face a fine of up to $1,000 on their third offense.
In the bill, Colvin said the sale of tobacco products is incompatible with the mission of health care institutions because it is detrimental to public health and undermines efforts to educate patients on the safe and effective use of medication.
“This is a long battle, and I know that the tobacco lobbies will continue to fight against it,” she said. “If it doesn’t work this time, we will keep introducing in each following session until a majority of members accept it.” She noted that the bill was first proposed two years ago by the Illinois State Medical Society.
Williams said it is only a matter of time before the change is made.
“It is an ongoing process to have a mixed range of a good piece of legislation. During the past two years, we forced stores to have a license to sell cigarettes,” she recalled.
But the National Association of Convenience Stores has a different perspective. Jeff Lenard, the association’s vice president of communication, said he understands the concerns of anti-tobacco activists, but believes the greater issue at stake here is freedom.
“Even though this legislation could have a positive benefit for our members, we can’t applaud it because everyone should be allowed to sell any legal product,” he said. “If states start to ban cigarettes and tobacco products from pharmacies, who knows what will be next? Do the convenience stores also face the same legislation?”
Lenard said instead, pharmacies could place cigarettes under their counters where they would not be visible to customers.
“They could move impulse items or items that people are stealing,” Lenard said.
Robert Karr, executive vice president of the Illinois Retail Merchant Association, is also opposed to the bill. Like Lenard, he said people should be allowed to buy and sell tobacco products.
Karr compared tobacco with other products like soda and sugar, which have also drawn criticism for their effects on human health. “People can buy them anywhere, and it should be the same thing for cigarettes,” he said.
While their stores would not be affected by the bill, some tobacco store owners are also opposed to the bill. Gerard Levy, owner of Iwan Ries & Co. in the Loop, agreed that there should be no restrictions on selling tobacco in stores.
CVS and Walgreens, the two biggest pharmacy chains in Illinois, did not return requests for comment.
Only Massachusetts and San Francisco have laws that prohibit the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies.