According to a press release issued by the American Legacy Foundation: "Approximately a dozen national public health and advocacy organizations are urging Family Dollar to reconsider its decision to sell tobacco products in its stores nationwide. In a letter today to the CEO of Family Dollar, the groups said the announcement “comes as a dire disappointment to the nation’s public health community.”
“Family Dollar’s decision to sell tobacco goes up against the company’s commitment ‘to improve the quality of life of [its] customers and Team Members’, given that tobacco is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States,” said Cheryl G. Healton, DrPH, President and CEO of Legacy®. “Selling tobacco at Family Dollar could heavily impact the lives of those Americans who already suffer disproportionately from tobacco’s economic and health consequences,” she added."
"For years, the tobacco industry has deliberately marketed tobacco brands to low socio-economic and minority youth and adults. Smoking is greatest among adults with working class jobs, low educational levels, low income, and those who are unemployed – groups that comprise the very communities Family Dollar serves. Since Family Dollar stores mainly operate in neighborhoods with low-income and middle income families, the company has the potential to increase access to the nation’s deadliest consumer product."
Among the organizations who signed on to the letter and press release are the American Legacy Foundation, American Academy of Pediatrics, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Citizens’ Commission to Protect the Truth, National Association of County and City Health Officials, National Association of Chronic Disease Directors, National Association of Local Boards of Health, North American Quitline Consortium, and the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center, UCSF Department of Medicine.
The Rest of the Story
Is Family Dollar the only retail store that has decided to sell cigarettes? Is Family Dollar the only store to operate in low-income and middle-class neighborhood to sell tobacco products? Why does the sale of tobacco products at Family Dollar heavily impact the lives of those Americans who "already suffer disproportionately from tobacco’s economic and health consequences," but the sale of the very same tobacco products at other stores in these same neighborhoods not impact those lives? Why is the sale of tobacco products at Family Dollar a "dire disappointment" to the nation's public health community, but the sale of tobacco products at a host of other retail stores not a dire disappointment?
What sense does it make for these anti-smoking groups to send a letter of complaint to Family Dollar, but not to send similar letters of complaint to all the other discount stores that target low- and middle-income families and sell cigarettes?
Why are the American Legacy Foundation, American Academy of Pediatrics, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Citizens’ Commission to Protect the Truth, National Association of County and City Health Officials, National Association of Chronic Disease Directors, National Association of Local Boards of Health, North American Quitline Consortium, and the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center, UCSF Department of Medicine seemingly unconcerned with the hundreds of discount stores that fail to put "consumer health ahead of profits" by refusing to sell tobacco products?
Apparently, the sale of tobacco products to low- and middle-class smokers who already suffer disproportionately from tobacco's economic and health consequences is perfectly acceptable as long as you were already in the business in April 2012. But if you go into the very same business after that time you are putting profits above consumer health. I take it that the many hundreds of other discount stores that sell tobacco products are not putting profits above consumer health.
There is no evidence that Family Dollar's decision to sell cigarettes will "increase access to the nation’s deadliest consumer product." There are plenty of places where smokers can currently get cigarettes and there is no reason to believe that the availability of cigarettes at Family Dollar will cause anyone to start smoking who would not have started anyway. What the decision would do is simply to shift the sale of cigarettes from some other stores to Family Dollar.
Regulating or interfering with the distribution of profits from the sale of tobacco to different stores does not seem to me to be a legitimate public health concern. Saving lives from tobacco-related disease and death is the public health concern, but this action by these anti-smoking groups will do nothing to save lives. All it does is mis-frame the issue of tobacco as being a problem only when sold by certain types of stores.
These groups should be working to significantly reduce tobacco use, not merely to shift around the distribution of which stores profit from it.