October 22, 2009 - The Richmond, California City Council took a cue from San Francisco and voted last night to ban cigarette sales at pharmacies. The council must approve the ordinance again at a future meeting before it will become law. Once the ordinance is adopted it will go into effect after 60 days.
But before the council approved the new ordinance, Council Member Ludmyrna Lopez tried to find out how many drug stores in the city would be affected. Neither council member Jeff Ritterman, who introduced the proposal, nor City Attorney Randy Riddle could tell Lopez exactly how many stores would be included under the law.
“I just asked the question and you don’t know how many pharmacies would be affected,” said Lopez. “I think that’s fair because if it is just one or two we don’t need an ordinance. I think we can just talk to them.”
The proposal is modeled after San Francisco’s landmark ordinance that made headlines and prompted lawsuits after the Board of Supervisors passed the same law last year.
The lawsuits have since been dropped, said Riddle, but Council Member Jim Rogers said he was concerned that the definition of a grocery store could potentially include chain drug stores such as Longs and Walgreens.
But Ritterman said that if the ordinance is working in San Francisco there’s no reason it won’t succeed in Richmond. Even though San Francisco has survived the legal challenges, Council Member Maria Viramontes said she is concerned that Richmond could be hit with lawsuits of its own. “When you start dealing with chain stores, they do throw out lawsuits. They do it all the time,” said Viramontes. “Do I want to sue San Francisco or do I want to sue Richmond?”
Resident Naomi Williams told the council she supports the ordinance. “The people who smoke and want to stop smoking, they go into the pharmacy to buy the patch and right next to the patch they find the cigarettes so they’re sending a mixed message,” said Williams. “It’s less than 10 percent of people that go into pharmacies to buy cigarettes anyways.”
But Tom Waller, another resident, spoke against the proposal. “I really worry about this slippery slope,” said Waller. “I understand that we want to put Richmond on the map in a leadership role. I think this puts Richmond on the map in a very negative way in terms of commerce. … I think this is a bad bad policy.”
Council Member Nathaniel Bates offered the lone dissenting voice against Ritterman’s proposal. “I just can’t support this,” said Bates. “I’m tired of these Socialist positions (that) keep on popping up where we’re going to save the world.”
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Reference: Richmond council votes to ban cigarettes at drug stores by Josh Wolf, RichmondConfidential.org, 10/21/2009.
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