Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Fall River Tells Youth: We Want You to Die of Lung Cancer from Cigarettes Purchased at Convenience Stores and Gas Stations, Not at Larger Chain Stores

In a clear message to the youth of the city, the Fall River (Massachusetts) City Council indicated that they want people to die of lung cancer from cigarettes purchased at gas stations and convenience stores like Honey Farms and Cumberland Farms, rather than at large chain pharmacy stores like CVS, Rite-Aid, and Walgreen's.

According to an article in the Fall River Herald-News, the Fall River City Council last night approved the first reading of an ordinance that would ban the sale of tobacco products in all pharmacies. The ordinance would, however, continue to allow the sale of these dangerous products in all other types of stores, including the ones where youth are most likely to purchase them: gas stations and small convenience stores.

According to the article: "Passage would mean a CVS or Wal-Mart can’t sell cigarettes anywhere in the store because they operate a pharmacy. ... Proponents said such an ordinance was necessary with city smoking at twice the state average."

The Rest of the Story

It's great to see policy makers taking a strong, principled stand and sending a clear message to youth: better that people should get lung cancer and emphysema from cigarettes purchased at smaller stores than from cigarettes purchased from larger ones, especially from those that have pharmacies.

It is gratifying to see these policy makers standing up and reminding our youth that when someone dies of lung cancer due to Marlboros that were purchased at CVS, it is a terrible, preventable tragedy, but when someone dies of cancer caused by Marlboros purchased at Honey Farms, it is perfectly acceptable.

It is also great to see these policy makers intervening in exactly the stores where restricting tobacco sales will have the least effect on youth access to tobacco. The large chain stores, especially the big pharmacies, are the ones which have the most rigorous training of their clerks and the lowest rate of cigarette sales to minors. It is precisely the stores that were exempted - the small convenience stores and gas stations - where youth can most easily purchase cigarettes. So it's nice to see that the policy makers are taking the action that will have the least possible effect on protecting youth from the devastating effects of cigarette smoking.

While the policy makers say they are acting to avoid a mixed message, it's nice to see that they are sending a very mixed message themselves: that we should judge the acceptability of selling cancer-causing products to people based on whether a store also sells medicine or not. This is an important lesson that I think all children should be taught.

We definitely don't want children to think that it is acceptable to sell deadly products and medicine at the same time. We want children to understand that as long as you don't sell medicine, it is perfectly acceptable to sell products that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans each year. How shameful it is of pharmacies to sell tobacco. And how admirable it is to see small convenience stores which sell tobacco but do not send mixed messages by also selling medicine.

What will be the next step that the Fall River City Council takes? To offer an award to its 7-Eleven for not stooping to the unethical level of also selling medicine with its cigarettes? To congratulate its Store 24 for only selling cigarettes, and not prescription drugs? To give the owner of Xtra Mart the key to the city for not sending a mixed message to young people by having medical products in the store when they purchase their cigarettes? To put a placard outside Cumberland Farms that says: "We are a model retail establishment. We don't mix the sale of medicines with our cigarette sales"?

The Fall River City Council should really give a special award to the Old Firehouse Smoke Shop. What a model citizen. What a great example for the youth. What a great symbol of the promotion of the public's health. After all, not only does the Smoke Shop not sell medicines, it also doesn't sell anything else other than tobacco products. Thus, there is no possible mixed message here.

Azore Discount Tobacco should also get an award from the Council. They have "tobacco" right in the name of their store, so they represent pure tobacco product sales, unadulterated by offering any other products that could possibly be construed as being of health value.

Hopefully, cities throughout the country will follow Fall River's honorable example. It is truly a tragedy when someone dies of a smoking-related illness and it turns out that their cigarettes were purchased in a pharmacy.

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