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Smoker and Non-Smokers Respond to New Cigarette Sale Ban at Reading Pharmacies

Cigarettes are still sold at 20 stores.

Smokers have four fewer places to buy cigarettes in Reading: CVS, two  stores and .

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.

Joe Veno August 15, 2012 at 10:44 AM
I realize they are not in business to sell cigarettes, but in this economy is it fair to take the money out of their pocket and give it to someone else? Although a small one. this is another example of why businesses do not go to or leave Reading.
Tim August 15, 2012 at 11:32 AM
I am all for banning cigarettes (and applaud this effort), but it is a slippery slope to ban unhealthy items from "health care" establishments. Should sugary soda be banned? Junk food? All the non-FDA approved supplements?
Mary August 15, 2012 at 01:09 PM
Another way for government to control peoples lives. Lift the ban. I would like that but I'm smart enough to know it's not going to happen. CVS, Walgreen's and Rite Aid are more than just "pharmacies". They are also convenient stores.
Zachary Camenker August 15, 2012 at 01:48 PM
As a former two-year member of the Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse, I was very pleased that the ban passed after the hard work that was put in by our youth and adult leaders. We felt that because pharmacies sell life-saving medications and products that are helpful for people, it was wrong to sell harmful, life-threatening products such as tobacco. Joe, while I understand your points about the economy and realize that they may lose some business, I personally feel that the ban of cigarettes will not affect the pharmacies all that much. They still sell a great deal of other products that will keep them in business. As for people who are displeased with the ban, they can still buy their cigarettes in plenty of other places.
Rob August 15, 2012 at 02:02 PM
It's all about the board of health trying to exert power over other people's lives. What gives them the power to say which legal products a business can sell?
OldTownie August 15, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Reading, the Brookline of the Middlesex league.
Brandon Chapman August 15, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Yet another overreach....let's see what else the government is going to "regulate". Saying the goal is to reduce the use of tobacco products by youths strikes me as disingenuous as well. How will barring a select group of retailers from selling tobacco have any impact when there are 20 other establishments who do sell it? As Tim said, this is a slippery slope
Mike August 15, 2012 at 05:11 PM
wawa sells aspirins maybe they should be banned there too, I don't smoke but everyone should take one thing from history, "first they came for the jews...(skipping ahead) and by the time they came for me there was noone left to help"
pomeroy41144 August 15, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Zack, I am so grateful that people like me have much smarter people like you guide us in making these type of decisions. I consider myself very fortunate. I am a non smoker but was thinking of having a cheeseburger and a Bud Light for dinner tonight. OK with you ?
Bob August 15, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Tell me Zachary.... as a former member of the Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse.... what do you think the odds are those "other places" to purchase cigarettes sell liquor? I'm much more concerned about people with alcohol abuse problems in a liquor store purchasing tobacco. Yes, if they were selling cartons of smokes in the lobby of the Lahey clinic I would probably raise an eyebrow myself.... but CVS and Walgreens are not just selling "life-saving medications". You make them sound far nobler than they are......They are convenience stores selling candy, magazines, food and toilet paper. How about Stop and Shop? They sell me food.... do you think it's wrong they also sell cigarettes? Speaking of candy.......I assume you will now champion banning candies, soda and ice cream from CVS to protect people with diabetes? Does it not strike you as incongruous that a seller of "life-saving medications" is poisoning the public with junk food? Is this not equally odd to you? *cough* Nanny state....
Mark August 15, 2012 at 07:49 PM
I am a non smoker, but these other places that sell cigarettes perhaps sell things that are considered health products perhaps there should be a ban on those health products at gas stations. I mean if Walgreens can't sell cigarettes then why should the gas station be able to sell Advil? Also this does absolutely nothing at all, zip! If someone smokes they are not going to quit because the pharmacy doesn't sell them, likewise they will not start only because the pharmacy does sell them. All you are doing is making it so that people who used to go to walgreens for their cigarettes and also buy soda, chips, beer, etc.. while they were there will now go to the gas station, hardly fair on the pharmacies. Perhaps nazis such as yourself would like to ban hamburgers from fast food places because 'hey they'll still have fries to sell', that is the stupidest statement ever "They still sell a great deal of other products that will keep them in business"...guess that clears up whether you know anything about business or not. It will be great will Walgreens shuts stores because you decided to pick winners. I for one would like the evil of tobacco banned, but you cannot tell a store they cannot sell something that is legal, it is either legal or it isn't. You bunch of useless busy bodies telling people where they can and cannot buy stuff, you have achieved zilch with this absolutely zilch!
Mark August 15, 2012 at 07:55 PM
I hope that Walgreens etc.. challenge this in court as this cannot possibly be legal can it?? I cannot understand how anybody thinks this will change anything, given that cigarettes are legal and sold everywhere like grocery stores and gas stations which are...EVERYWHEREprobably right across the street from the pharmacy. Honestly, if someone is dumb enough to think smoking is good for you ust because it is sold at a pharmacy then is it really a big loss to society if they die from it?? Just sayin....
Joe Veno August 15, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Well said Mark.
SFennelly August 16, 2012 at 02:01 PM
The difference between adults and children is the fact that children still need to be taught about decisions and consequences where adults should be capable of that all by themselves. By taking away that ability by all these regulations we are creating a society of "It's not my fault, nobody told me....!" Smoking is a nasty habit and causes cancer and numerous other diseases but it is also a commodity. The only way it is going to go away is when adults decide not to buy them anymore and companies lose profits. This is just like teenagers and alcohol. If they can't get it one place they will just sneak around and go somewhere else. Only this is adults the only people who are going to lose are the companies and the people that work there who lose their jobs. Instead of taking the decision away, start teaching people how to make decisions for themselves!!
Laura Savage-Carr August 16, 2012 at 10:54 PM
Great work RCASA! You can't prevent to sale of illegal drugs at Reading HS, so instead ban the sale of a legal product at certain local businesses.
Laura Savage-Carr August 16, 2012 at 11:00 PM
So much for freedom of choice. Will Plan B pills still be available for sale?
A. Horch August 18, 2012 at 10:59 AM
I saw some sleds being sold at a Walgreens last winter. Did you know that there are over 20,000 visits to the ER each year due to sledding accidents?! Given that pharmacies, sell first aid supplies, they should certainly be banned from selling anything that could induce injury. Who do I have to call?
A. Horch August 18, 2012 at 11:02 AM
Isn't it ironic that they are being banned from selling a product that might shorten life, but employees are forced to sell a product that will prevent or end life????

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