Riverhead, NY –At today’s General Meeting of the Suffolk County Legislature, lawmakers approved a bill prohibiting the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies. After the vote, bill sponsors, Legislator William R. Spencer, MD and Legislator Rudy A. Sunderman, were joined by public health advocates to announce the passage of this significant bipartisan legislation which is part of the County’s ongoing mission to reduce tobacco use and improve the health of all residents.
“Tobacco continues to hold the top spot as the number one cause of preventable death throughout the world. Responsible for at least 12 cancers and a multitude of other diseases, tobacco harms nearly every organ of the body and is the only legal product sold in America that when used as directed, kills up to half of its long-term users.” stated Legislator Spencer. “Here in Suffolk County, we continue to promote and advance policies to make a difference in the quality of health for our residents. I am proud to sponsor this legislation with Legislator Sunderman that expands upon our efforts to reduce the harmful effects of tobacco. Pharmacies should support and foster public health, and the sale of tobacco products at these establishments is directly at odds with this common sense goal.”
“Pharmacies are thought of as neighborhood drug stores; a friendly, helpful, and community driven shop for your healthcare needs. These are places of wellness, where we get medication to make ourselves healthy. Cigarettes are detrimental to our health and contradict the very purpose of a pharmacy. This is a continued step in the right direction for the health of all our residents in Suffolk County,” stated Legislator Sunderman. “I am proud to partner with Legislator “Doc” Spencer on such an important piece of Legislation.”
The opposing values of tobacco being sold and advertised in pharmacies has prompted a tobacco-free pharmacy movement to enact similar municipal and corporate policies throughout the country. Comparable laws have been passed in Albany, Rockland County, NYC, San Francisco, and Massachusetts. Corporate leaders in the industry, like CVS, Wegmans, and other independently owned pharmacies in New York, have voluntarily discontinued selling tobacco as they recognize this fundamental conflict between promoting health and the sale of tobacco products that kill nearly 500,000 Americans each year.
The American Pharmacists Association, the American Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, along with many other health professionals, overwhelmingly support a ban on pharmacy sales of tobacco products.
The passage of this bill reinforces that pharmacies are health focused businesses, and bolsters Suffolk’s continued efforts to decrease tobacco use. Some of those efforts include, raising the age to purchase tobacco products to 21, prohibiting smoking in County parks and beaches, authorizing a tobacco-free policy for Suffolk County Community College, regulating smoking at multiple dwelling buildings, and providing smoking cessation classes for the public through the Department of Health.
“It’s a well- known fact that pharmacies are public health facilities, the pharmacists who work there are health care professionals, and trusted members of the health care team. Pharmacies are in the business of helping to make people healthier, not contribute to the causes of diseases that cost the lives of over 28,000 New Yorkers each year!” said Pat Bishop-Kelly, Member of the American Cancer Society Board of Advisors, ACS Cancer Action Network, and Suffolk County Board of Health. “The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network supports and applauds this important effort to keep all tobacco products and their newer derivatives out of the very stores committed to the sale of medicines and items dedicated to the improvement of health.”
“The Suffolk County Legislature has a long, proud history of enacting strong and effective tobacco control regulations. This law will be one more step in protecting the health of our residents. This regulation helps establish healthy community norms. It decreases the bombardment of colorful tobacco displays meant to entice children and it reduces the influence on adults trying to break the addiction to nicotine,” stated Lori Benincasa, Retired Director of Health Education for Suffolk County.
IR 1039- 2019 will apply to all pharmacies and retail establishments with pharmacies on site in the County of Suffolk. All tobacco products, including cigarettes, loose tobacco, chewing tobacco, cigars, powdered tobacco, shisha, herbal cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, electronic liquids, rolling paper, and smoking paraphernalia, are prohibited from sale in pharmacies. Consumers will still be able to purchase nicotine replacement therapies authorized for sale by the FDA, such as skin patches, nicotine gum and lozenges, all determined to be suitable cessation products. Violation of the law is subject to a civil penalty of up to $2,000 per instance, after a hearing before the Commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. The law will take effect before the end of 2019.