Suffolk Legislature Votes to End Pharmacy Tobacco Sales

The Suffolk Legislature  Tuesday approved a bill  cosponsored by Legislator William “Doc” Spencer, D-Centerport, to ban the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies.

The bill, also cosponsored by Republican Legislator Rudy Sunderman, passed on a 16-2 vote.

“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,” Spencer said.  “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.”

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, New York City, San Francisco, and Massachusetts, Spencer’s office said.

Some pharmacies, including CVS, Wegmans, and other independently owned pharmacies in New York, have voluntarily discontinued selling tobacco as they recognize thel 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, all support a ban on pharmacy sales of tobacco products.

“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 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.

Photo:  Legislator Tom Donnelly; Legislator Sarah Anker; Legislator Samuel Gonzalez; Legislator William Spencer; Lori Benincasa, Retired Director of Health Education for Suffolk County; Paulette Orlando, community engagement specialist with the American Lung Association; Pat Bishop-Kelly, member of the American Cancer Society Board of Advisors, ACS Cancer Action Network, and Suffolk County Board of Health; Legislator Al Krupski; Legislator Susan Berland; Legislator Kara Hahn and Legislator Rudy Sunderman.


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