City Hall watch: Reach of tobacco ban grows

San Francisco took another step toward becoming a smoke-free city Tuesday.

The Board of Supervisors voted 7-3 to approve legislation that bans the sale of tobacco products in stores with an on-site pharmacy. It adds to recent efforts to curb smoking, including increasing the number of nonsmoking areas in San Francisco and charging a litter fee on every purchased pack of cigarettes.

Two years ago, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban the sale of tobacco products in drugstores such as Walgreens, but exempted grocery stores or stores such as Safeway and Costco.

The law, by exempting certain business types, was ruled to be in violation of equal protection rights afforded by the U.S. Constitution in a California appeals court case filed against The City by Walgreen Co.

“This is legislation that would likely be required by a court in the near future anyway to preserve the mayor’s original ordinance barring the sale of cigarettes at pharmacies,” said Tony Winnicker, Mayor Gavin Newsom’s spokesman.

Supervisors Sean Elsbernd, Carmen Chu and Michela Alioto-Pier opposed it.

“There’s a line between government and Big Brother,” Elsbernd said. “And this ordinance crosses the line.”

But Supervisor Eric Mar said that “cigarettes and pharmacies don’t mix. Pharmacies should promote healing and protect our health, not sell cigarettes.”

In a statement, Walgreen Co. said, “We’ve always felt that any regulation like this should apply to all retailers with pharmacies equally. We want to compete on a level playing field.”

IN OTHER ACTION

  • In a 9-1 vote, a $61,000 gift from the Laborers Local 261 Community and Training Foundation to build two bocce courts on the lawn in Justin Herman Plaza was approved. Supervisor Chris Daly opposed it.
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