When CVS, the national drugstore chain, voluntarily stopped selling tobacco products earlier this year, we praised the move, expressing the hope that others in the industry would follow suit.
It hasn’t happened yet, so Albany County’s Legislature upped the ante this week, passing a first-in-NewYork law that would compel pharmacies or any stores with pharmacy operations inside them to stop selling tobacco.
Whether County Executive Dan McCoy will sign the law is unclear - he wants to hold a public hearing first - but even if 100 pros show up to out-shout every con, he should veto it.
While selling tobacco may be at cross-purposes with the pharmacy industry’s primary mission of making people well, pharmacies (or stores with pharmacies in them) are still businesses.
They’re trying to make money, as any business does, and to them, tobacco is just another product that enables them do so.
As long as tobacco remains legal in this country, any store that chooses to sell it should be entitled to do so - regardless of what else it happens to sell.
The fact is, the typical modern pharmacy is so much more than just a “drugstore” - just as a supermarket or department store is more than just a supermarket or department store. Mass merchandisers of this type sell a little, or a lot, of everything.
If a drugstore chain like CVS wants to take the high road and eschew profits from tobacco sales, more power to them.
Like-minded consumers (and government officials), rather than demand that the chain’s competitors follow suit, should vote with their pocketbooks by patronizing such stores. That will send the others a message.
Finally, local governments should always think long and hard before passing a law that would put their businesses at a competitive disadvantage to their next-door neighbors’.
For example, this law might encourage smokers living in Colonie near the Schenectady County line to drive to the Niskayuna Hannaford to buy their groceries, pharmaceuticals (and cigarettes) instead of the Colonie ShopRite.
A state or federal law would be more equitable, but ideally, government should keep its nose out of this business.