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    Some independent R.I. pharmacies oppose tobacco ban

    Rhode Island legislators recently introduced a bill that would ban pharmacies throughout the state from selling tobacco products.

    Why do drugstores sell products that kill?

    The proposed legislation is drawing opposition from what many consider an unlikely source—independent pharmacies that fear they can’t survive without tobacco sales.

    According to an article in the Providence Journal, several independent pharmacists testified against a bill sponsored by Rep. Katherine Kazarian (D-East Providence) during a hearing before a state legislative committee. Last year, CVS became the first national pharmacy retailer to end tobacco sales.

    "Keeping in mind the institution of a pharmacy and what it stands for — and tobacco and the harmful effects we know it causes — I just don't believe that both of those products should be in the same place," Kazarian said.

    However, Nickolas Shanos, who owns a pharmacy in Warwick, said the business model of independent pharmacies is much different than that of the retails giants such as CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid. Many of the independents, he said, could not survive the loss of tobacco sales, and that the bills infringes on the rights of businesses. “At what point do you say candy is detrimental to people?” Shanos asked.

     

    Michael Rossi, another independent pharmacy owner, told lawmakers that at least 8% of his revenue comes from cigarette sales. Last year, he said, his pharmacy had $1.2 million in cigarette sales. "Tobacco and liquor go hand in hand. If someone's not going to buy cigarettes and alcohol, they're not going to come to us anymore," Rossi said.

    House Corporations Chairman Brian Patrick Kennedy, chairman of the legislative committee considering the bill, said he was sympathetic to independent pharmacies. There are only about 20 independent pharmacies still in business in Rhode Island.

     “These poor guys who have been trying to make a living ended up in many cases having to close their stores because they couldn't make it any longer,” Kennedy said. “So I understand the hardship they’re talking about here, and this places a major hardship on them.”

    See also:

    CVS Caremark to impose surcharges at pharmacies selling tobacco

    Mark Lowery, Editor
    Mark Lowery an Editor for Drug Topics magazine.

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