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San Francisco Marin Medical Society Blog

San Francisco Expands Tobacco Ban, Nullifies Walgreens Lawsuit

The City of San Francisco recently voted to expand its ban on tobacco sales in retail establishments that contain pharmacies, eliminating an exemption in the original 2008 law that allowed tobacco sales in supermarkets and “big box” stores that contain pharmacies.

The expansion follows a decision by a San Francisco appeals court that it is unreasonable to apply the ban to drugstores, but not to supermarkets and big box stores that contain pharmacies. By amending the law, the city hopes to head off further litigation over enforcement of the ordinance, which was the first of its kind in the nation.

The original ordinance was challenged by Walgreen Co. as unconstitutional. The drugstore chain argued that the ordinance violated equal protection laws because it exempted supermarkets and retail stores like Costco.

SFMS has supported the restrictions from the outset, including filing legal briefs in support of San Francisco policies. As noted in JAMA recently, overall smoking rates among Americans have stalled, while exposure to secondhand smoke has declined since new policies such as those in question were instituted – more evidence that progress on this front is possible.

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