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Daly City takes next step to restrict tobacco

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CVS employee Brandon Hereria handles a pack of cigarettes at a tobacco display in a Daly City store prior to Oct. 1 2014, when all CVS stores nationwide stopped selling tobacco products. (Brendan Bartholomew/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Daly City’s elected officials recently moved to amend the town’s already-strict smoking ordinance to further restrict the sale, distribution and use of tobacco products.

In a unanimous vote, the City Council agreed to prohibit the sale of tobacco products at pharmacies, prevent tobacco product sellers from offering free samples and expand the city’s second-hand smoke restriction to include sidewalks adjacent to apartment buildings, places of employment and other public spaces.

In addition to affecting retailers like Walgreens, which has three stores in Daly City, the ban on tobacco sales at pharmacies will also apply to supermarkets that have on-site pharmacies, like Safeway and Lucky. Target stores with pharmacies will be unaffected because they do not currently sell tobacco products. The town’s two CVS pharmacies will also be unaffected, because CVS discontinued tobacco sales last year.

Visitors to the recently renovated and rebranded Lucky California store on Mission Street might agree that a halt in tobacco sales would be consistent with the progressive theme of the pilot store, which emphasizes locally grown produce and aims to reclaim market share from upscale competitors like Trader Joe’s.

Company spokeswoman Nannette Miranda noted the chain tries to stock products that are wanted by the communities it serves and would not dispute elected officials’ decisions about tobacco products.

“Lucky stores sell products as a courtesy to the community,” Miranda said. “If the community wants to make changes, we will comply with whatever local leaders deem appropriate for their city.”

Walgreens and Safeway representatives did not respond to interview requests at press time.

Councilman Mike Guingona introduced the new amendments and previously championed some of Daly City’s prior anti-smoking efforts, including last year’s expansion of the town’s secondhand smoke ordinance to include vaping and e-cigarettes.

Guingona noted that young adults might find it odd that smoking was once allowed in restaurants and on airplanes, and said the restriction on pharmacy sales would serve to further denormalize the idea of using tobacco products.

“I want people to look back on this era and say, ‘Can you believe you used to be able to buy cigarettes at a pharmacy? Wow!’” Guingona said.

Breathe California Golden Gate Public Health Partnership, a lung health activist group, supports Daly City’s tighter controls on tobacco sales. CEO Linda Civitello noted that San Mateo County lung cancer rates are highest in the North County, with blacks being hit hardest and diagnoses among Asian Americans on the rise.

“Pharmacies are supposed to promote health and well-being,” Civitello said, “So they shouldn’t be selling products that can and do kill.”

California Pharmacists Association CEO Jon Roth cheered Daly City’s ban on pharmacy tobacco sales, noting that his organization has advocated such changes throughout the state.

E-cigarettes and liquid nicotine vaping blends are included in the Daly City ordinance, and Roth said his organization supports classifying such devices and substances as tobacco products.

Roth added that an increase in nicotine overdoses seems to be correlated with the rising popularity of e-cigarettes, and the available data suggests that vaping could have long-term health consequences.

Councilman David Canepa applauded Guingona for spearheading the new regulations.

“I commend Mr. Guingona for his efforts on this good, solid legislation,” Canepa said. “This is an example of the council working together.”

Representatives of the Tobacco Merchants Association did not respond to a request for comment.

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