Leave Stores Alone

Published July 30, 2008

Banning legal products from being sold at privately owned businesses, as San Francisco did recently with tobacco, shows a remarkable arrogance (July 30, “Board passes tobacco ban in pharmacies”). Regardless of whether government officials “feel” that the sale of tobacco is contrary to values they want stores to promote, such a ban is improper government intrusion into private business decisions.

Why stop with tobacco? There are plenty of products sold in stores that could be considered as advancing unhealthy living–soda, candy, alcohol. With this logic we’d have to ban half of Walgreens.

The responsibility for making health decisions is an individual one. Unlike most other tobacco retailers, pharmacies typically sell smoking cessation products as well. Making smokers buy cigarettes elsewhere is counterproductive to the ban’s supposed justification, as Supervisor Bevan Dufty pointed out in her dissent.

Prohibiting a business from selling a legal product, just because that business also offers health products or services, will do nothing to lower smoking rates. It will, however, unfairly burden pharmacies and reduce consumer choice.

John Nothdurft ([email protected]) is the budget and tax legislative specialist for The Heartland Institute.