The Board of Health banned the sale of tobacco products at pharmacies and drug stores and other health care institutions, starting last month. The intent of the effort, funded by a state grant and initiated by the Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse’s Youth Crew, is to reduce the use of tobacco products by youths, according to Tobacco Coordinator for the Mystic Valley Tobacco and Alcohol Program Maureen Buzby.
Selling tobacco products at pharmacies doesn’t make sense Buzby, told Patch, because they are health care institutions.
The ban, which took effect this past July 1, has drawn mixed responses.
“It’s ridiculous” -- a pain in the rear --said John Cola, sitting in a car Monday outside Walgreen’s and puffing on a cigarette.
Cola, from Lynnfield, now gets his smokes elsewhere – at a Walgreens outside Reading or at a gas station, he said.
Taryn Goucher, who works at the Reading Walgreens and described herself as a nonsmoker, is “happy I don’t have to sell cigarettes anymore.”
The ban takes away people’s right to make a choice about whether to smoke or not, said Julie LeBlanc, who also said she did not smoke. LeBlanc works at the Rite Aid on Haven Street.
As a result of the ban, sales are down “drastically” there, she told Patch. When people used to come in for smokes, they’d pick up other items, too, she said.
Twenty stores in Reading can still sell tobacco products, according to Buzby. They need a permit from the Board of Health and the Department of Revenue, she said.
At one of those stores, the P&S Convenience Store on Lowell Street, Manager Frank Connors said he’s noticed an increase in cigarette sales. The store doesn’t sell many cigarettes, he said, but “we do sell more now” since the ban took effect. His store is not geographically close to the pharmacies in town, he noted.
At the Shell Gas Station and Convenience Store on south Main Street, employee Amy Patel said she sees no difference in cigarette sales. There are a lot of stores around there that sell them, she noted.
A short distance north on Main Street at the Mobile Mart, Sandip Patel said all his sales are down since he bought the store two months ago.
Pharmacies have “seen (the ban) coming,” according to Buzby. In communities with no ban, pharmacies are asking, she said, “When is it coming?”
A CVS employee declined to talk to Patch about the new ban, citing company policy.
On the front window of CVS are two signs that pertain to cigarette smoking and youths.
Don’t use your ID to buy tobacco for minors, that is, those under age 18, according to one sign.
“Under 18. No tobacco. We card,” says the other.
Buzby said no complaints were recorded in the seven communities she oversees about pharmacies selling tobacco products to minors and no violations were found during compliance checks in Reading.