A movement to ban the sale of cigarettes at pharmacies is gaining traction across Massachusetts and the North Andover Board of Health is debating their options on joining in.
At their March 29 meeting, the board discussed the possibility of banning the sale of cigarettes at both large pharmacies, such as CVS and Walgreens, along with any smaller ones.
Although the board didn’t make any motion on the topic, nor open a vote, the board’s four members debated for over an hour the pros and cons of enforcing such a regulation.
Board member Frank MacMillan had put the discussion on the agenda for the evening, noting he took an interest in the movement six months ago and more than 25 cities throughout the state, including Boston and Springfield, have introduced the regulation.
“It’s very clear these places are healthcare facilities,” he said. “To sell a pack of cigarettes out the door seems somewhat incompatible.”
The push to regulate pharmacies comes from a number of special interest groups and health organizations, such as the Massachusetts Medical Society.
The board invited Dr. Louis Fazen, the MMS’s Committee for Public Health Chairman, to offer the group’s perspective on the measure.
Fazen said his group isn’t looking to punish these businesses, but instead remove another avenue for children to access cigarettes and reinforce the image of a pharmacy as a location for medicine and other benign products.
“We would not expect to see a cancer agent in a pharmacy,” Fazen said.
The town currently has five pharmacies all located within larger chain stores such as Stop and Shop supermarkets, CVS and Walgreens.
Fazen, a pediatrician, said his hometown of Southborough enacted a sale ban for pharmacies in 2010 without community or business pushback. He added most smaller, locally owned pharmacies have dropped selling tobacco altogether.
Both MacMillan and Thomas Trowbridge, board chairman, spoke favorably of enacting such a measure by noting how piecemeal changes in local ordinances can lead to large-scale positive changes in the future.
“This isn’t going to stop smoking in North Andover,” Trowbridge said. “But I think if we were going to stop one kid from smoking in North Andover then we’ve accomplished our goal. This is primarily about underage smoking.”
Board members Larry Fixler and Joseph McCarthy disagreed, saying such an ordinance would punish these businesses for selling a legal product and drive smokers into neighboring cities or states to spend money.