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Marin County bans sale of cigarettes, tobacco products in pharmacies

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Several years after San Francisco passed the first ordinance in the country prohibiting the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies, neighboring Marin County has passed a similar ban -- though the Marin County law affects less than a handful of retail locations.

The Marin County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to forbid tobacco sales in pharmacies in unincorporated areas of the county. Marin County officials say the ban affects four retail outlets, one of which already volunteered to stop tobacco sales.

In passing the ban, county officials said because pharmacies play a role in healthcare, selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in the stores was “contradictory” to their role.

“With just a few exceptions, pharmacies worldwide are tobacco-free, and it is time for the United States to have pharmacies focus on health and say no to tobacco,” Dr. Larry Meredith, director of the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement after the vote.

“The Board of Supervisors has set a new standard for Marin, and it is now up to the 10 other Marin municipalities to follow the lead,” the statement said.

Ahead of the board’s approval, county officials had said that a majority of pharmacists supported the prohibition of tobacco products in pharmacies, and that none of Marin County’s independent pharmacies sold tobacco products. The ordinance also had the backing of the Smoke-Free Marin Coalition a group describing itself as grassroots advocacy organization that plays a role in public health policy.

The ban on tobacco sales goes in effect Oct. 1, coinciding with a voluntary move announced earlier this year by CVS Caremark, which has about 7,600 stores nationwide -- including eight in Marin County -- to stop selling cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco in all of its U.S. stores by that date.

In 2008 San Francisco passed the first ordinance in the country prohibiting the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products in pharmacies.

Cigarette maker Philip Morris and drugstore chain Walgreens filed separate suits over the law, which prompted San Francisco to later pass a broader ordinance expanding the ban to include other retailers, including grocery stores.