Could Med City Ban Tobacco Sales in Drug Stores?

Created: 02/06/2014 5:53 PM
By: Jenna Lohse

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- The announcement of the first major drugstore chain to take cigarettes off their shelves may be the catalyst to similar actions all across the country. We talked with those locally to find out if this could become a city-wide issue in Rochester, a city known for health care.

"If you reduce the convenience, if you reduce the availability, people are going to use it less,” said Dr. Taylor Hays, Director of Mayo Clinic’s Nicotine Dependence Center. He finds the idea of adopting a tobacco-free pharmacy law in Rochester a healthy one, with hopes that less places who sell cigarettes would lead to less smokers. 

"As we've reduced the social norm of smoking, as we've reduced the availability we've seen that already,” said Hays. 

Watchdog group Americans for Non-Smokers’ Rights shows cities like San Francisco and Boston have taken these types of actions. They've banned all cigarette sales in retail pharmacies across the city.


"I would support that, I think it would make perfect sense,” said Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede. Brede says a city-wide ban on pharmacy tobacco sales has yet to be discussed, but it is a law he says seems appropriate.

"Here we are the Med City and I don't think they have to be, it has to be, that available in every corner pharmacy or grocery store,” said Brede. 

But not everyone feels this way. "We're talking about a legal product that is in fact a legal product enjoyed by a number of people and I have a hard time telling businesses who are handling the product responsibility that they can't do that,” said Rochester City Council Member Michael Wojcik. 

Wojcik feels it government should step in when tobacco products are marketed inappropriately, but to ban businesses from selling certain products isn't right.

For Dr. Taylor Hays, he thinks it makes sense to regulate cigarette sales on the municipal level. "In fact that's probably part of the way we'll get to an end game where we can finally minimize the use of tobacco in our county,” said Hays. 

Councilman Wojcik also noted that Minnesota state statutes may not even allow cities to take this sort of action. Of course if this is the case, legislation could always change in the future.