Board of Health considers restricting tobacco sales

by susan on December 15, 2010

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At their meeting this afternoon, the Southborough Board of Health will consider whether to ban the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products at pharmacies in town.

Southborough has three pharmacies, only one of which — the Walgreens on Oak Hill Road and Route 9 — sells tobacco.

Public Health Director Paul Pisinski said the board is considering the ban because they feel it’s “anachronistic” to sell tobacco alongside the health products used to treat the effects of tobacco. “It’s contrary to good health practices,” he said.

Boston enacted a ban on tobacco sales in drugstores, as well as on college campuses, two years ago this month. Needham followed suit with similar regulations in 2009. Pisinski said other area towns are also considering bans.

Pinsinski said pharmacy owners in town were notified in writing of today’s public hearing.

The hearing starts at 2:00 pm in the Board of Health meeting room in Cordaville Hall (Senior Center). It’s open to the public.

1 melissa earls December 15, 2010 at 11:31 AM

Smoking is BAD for you! I agree with this decision. Don’t want my kids growing up with ciggys!

2 Trixie December 15, 2010 at 1:38 PM

I don’t smoke and I don’t allow it in my home. However tobacco is a legal substance and I don’t think any government should be telling a private business what they can and cannot sell. There are plenty of rules about age restrictions, etc. already. What’s next? Snickers Bars? Donuts?

3 DLD December 15, 2010 at 2:29 PM

With smoking rates continuing to decline and obesity rates skyrocketing, Mr. Pisinski should be as concerned – if not more so – about the chips, candy, soda and fatty foods that these stores sell. Are we going to ban the sale of fat and sugar-laden snack foods as well? It wouldn’t impact my life too much and I certainly don’t want my kids growing up with ciggies… or spare tires for that matter. Just pointing out that these moral stands are a slippery slope.

4 djd66 December 15, 2010 at 3:31 PM

This is ridiculous. Have you ever heard of something called freedom? They also sell Coke + candy (which is very unhealthy) and they also sell products to treat diabetes. They sell lottery tickets,… along with anti depressants. There are lots of things that are unhealthy, please leave those decisions up to me to decide though. Unless it is illegal, they should be able to sell it. I can’t believe this is even an issue.

5 Erin December 15, 2010 at 3:52 PM

I’m disappointed that we’re spending valuable time and resources on this issue, especially considering it only impacts one business in town. Obviously smoking is bad for your health. Candy is also bad for you, yet we don’t tell Walgreen’s to eliminate the candy aisle – even though obesity and diabetes are often referred to by the media as “epidemics”, and despite the fact that Walgreen’s sells “health products” related to their treatment.

We also don’t ban soda from restaurants, even though soda is just empty calories (and bad for your teeth).

I understand their intent, but I think it’s a slippery slope.

6 Al Hamilton December 15, 2010 at 5:59 PM

I agree with many of the posters here. I don’t allow smoking in my house either and it is a vile stupid habit. But it is a legal habit that those stupid enough to choose to smoke are entitled to do so and those who choose to sell a legal product should be able to.

On the other hand, I have no problem with smokers paying higher health insurance premiums because they chose to smoke just as skydivers have to pay more for life insurance.

Lets not forget that in addition to candy and sugary treats the stores in question sell razors (sharp) rubbing alcohol (very flammable) over the counter drugs (abuse-able) and paper which as we all know can lead to paper cuts.

This is politically correct overreaching.

7 Jerry C December 15, 2010 at 8:02 PM

Pharmacies shouldn’t be selling tobacco…… end of story.

8 djd66 December 15, 2010 at 9:30 PM

Yeah, it should only be sold at the Mobil station across the street. They are much more qualified to be selling tobaco products than a pharmarcy.

9 Pam December 16, 2010 at 6:22 AM

I’ve never been in the Southborough Walgreens, but I have been in others like it. It is NOT stricktly a pharmacy. I believe that they also sell cleaning productions, stationery goods, cameras, film, batteries, toiletries, makeup and a slew of other types of goods. The Walgreens at the Med Center, for example, IS strictly a pharmacy – they probably shouldn’t be selling cigarettes and they don’t. However, I believe that it is their choice not to sell cigarettes. CHOICE – FREEDOM. We have it and our ancestors fought for it with their lives. It seems that we are losing more of it on a regular basis these days, let’s not lose more.

10 Paul December 17, 2010 at 6:21 PM

If the Board of Health is serious about reducing the truly terribly harmful effects of smoking and second hand smoke, they should ban sales of all forms of tobacco products at all locations in Southborough. They should also include banning the sale of tobacco related products like pipes and cigarette wrapping papers which are used primarily with marijuana.

Its is interesting the Board of Health has not taken any action to ban the sale of chewing tobacco which has awful health risks.

Personally, I am a nonsmoker and I do not allow smoking in my home or car. However, I believe people should be free to make their own personal choices in this matter.

11 Jerry C December 16, 2010 at 7:02 AM

djd66; Why not put in a tobacco stand at Southborough Medical, then you could really make your point, right? I have a better idea, make tobacco illegal period and don’t sell it anywhere. It’s a noxious, poisonous, addictive sustance that kills and impoverishes its users, enriches people unworthy and immoral enough to buy stock in companies that produce it, and fills up hospitals with sick and suffering people.

12 Lisa December 16, 2010 at 10:04 AM


Why not make alcohol illegal also? Drunk Drivers kill and maim everyday. Like some said earlier what is next candy? And make fast food illegal for obesity reasons. I appreciate you points but it really scares me when our freedoms and liberties are slowly being taken away.

13 djd66 December 16, 2010 at 11:02 AM

So glad we have people like you and the board of health to decide what is right for me and to protect me against making bad decisions for myself. I can’t imagine what it would be like if I actually had to make decisions.

Why not also put a ban on the Wendy’s drive through,… why should it be so easy to feed your kids that crap. You should actually have to get out of the car,… or better yet, shut that place down,… same thing with the pizza joints – they are all unhealthy and lead to heart disease.

This country was founded on Freedom. You can choose what is right and wrong for yourself. If we go down this road, I can easily see other products getting taxed or banned in certain places. I believe in personally responsibility. I I can decide what is right and wrong.

14 Neil Rossen December 16, 2010 at 7:10 AM

Complete overreach, no doubt influenced by the socialist policies being pursued by the White House. Can’t the pols just leave us alone!

15 Jerry C December 16, 2010 at 1:55 PM

So people are worried that their freedom may be infringed upon? Try this one. The tobacco industry, for almost 100 years, has created marketing programs specifically targeting children in inner cities, suburbs, villages, towns, anywhere they can find them. These programs were designed by adults, yes, likely parents, and the result was the addiction, poisoning and maiming of other peoples children. The average smoker is hooked before age 18. The person that is hooked on tobacco by age 18 can expect a 10 year average reduction in life expectency. Smoking is responsible for 11.8% of U.S. Health Care costs.

How much more do you need to know! Look, if you want to poison yourself, then fine, that’s your choice. My problem is that they have been, and always will, target market children with their deadly and addictive product. Why? Because by the time your adults yoy’re probably smart enough to not smoke. They have to get you when you’re young. And they will, I guarantee it. That’s why the products need to be banned.

These Marketeers are very smart people, and they’re after our children, and if I can I’ll stop them.

16 Al Hamilton December 17, 2010 at 7:46 AM


I think everything you say here is more or less true. As a reformed smoker (35+ years) I detest the habit. The question of whether we should ban tobacco in its entirety is I think an open question worthy of debate particularly in light of the fact that smokers have an uncanny way of imposing very significant costs on those of us who never tookup or kicked the disgusting habit.

However, that is not the subject of this debate. Tobacco remains a legal product. What the BOH wants to do is pick and choose who gets to market this legal product. I find this deeply troubling. As a general rule I don’t like the “state” picking and choosing winners and losers.

17 Neil Rossen December 16, 2010 at 3:07 PM

I want it to remain a matter of choice. Perhaps you should read the ‘Road to Serfdom” which extends the logic of the nanny state (i.e where the pols know better than everyne else) to a rational conclusion. I am against jet skis, ATVs, that are dangeous and damage the environment. Let’s ban those as well while we’re about it. Or someone thinks that MSNBC is hopelessly biased. Ban that too. Just where does it stop?

18 djd66 December 16, 2010 at 5:49 PM

Neil –
Good Post. I would also recomend for Jerry put down the Communist Manifesto to get back to basics and read Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith.

You can not legislate a healthy lifestyle. Obesity is a far bigger problem than cigarette smoking. So should we shut down ALL fast food stores, make bacon illegal,… shut down ColdStone, Qiznos,…. The answer is no, you can’t. What you can do is set a good example for your kids and teach them what you think is best for them.

So please get your hands of my triple burger with triple bacon + my diet coke.

19 Jerry C December 17, 2010 at 7:06 AM

djd66; Just heard the BOH banned sales in town pharmacies. Well I guess you’re out of luck.

But please, don’t despise, and never give up. You can always bring this to the Supreme Court and hope to get a hearing in front of Justice Thomas, and his wonderful wife Virginia. They’ll discuss the issue over morning Vodka Tonics, and 20 from now she’ll call you, at 5:00 AM of course, with the decision.

20 Neil Rossen December 17, 2010 at 9:16 AM

Is there a way we can protest this disgraceful attack on liberty?Are these people Obama clones?

21 Lisa December 17, 2010 at 11:30 AM

Neil, I agree it is an attack on a legal product. To those that think it is a vile habit, as a past smoker I agree. But I also don’t drink and I find that legal and additictive habit that often kills innocent victims including children by those who abuse vile, so I guess the next vote will be to close the Package Stores and not offer any liquor licenses in the Town. Folks we are walking a slippery slope on this one, what will be next and in the spirit of protecting us from ourself.

22 NancyV December 17, 2010 at 10:00 AM

The argument about junk food, softdrinks, over-the-counter drugs, razors, rubbing alcohol, paper (come on Al, really???) are not valid. All of those items when used occasionally and/or properly for their intended use, pose little to no health risk. Cigarettes, on the other hand, are dangerous when used for their intended use and are HIGHLY addictive, which all but rules out very occasional use. If you want to go down that same road, a bible could be used to assault someone, so the sale of the bible should be restricted. See how ridiculous you can get with such an argument?

But on the other hand, regulating something which is legal is problematic. If the concern is about children and their exposure, then target education, visibility and accessibility. I say tax cigarettes like crazy so that those who smoke must supplement the increased cost that smokers put on society. It would also make them just too expensive for the majority of people, especially children, to afford. I would support making tobacco an illegal substance, but fear that is a long way off.

In the end, I think what the BOH did is unsettling, but outweighed by the danger of raising a new generation of smokers. It is not optimum, but the lesser of two evils.

23 Al Hamilton December 17, 2010 at 12:31 PM

Nancy – Really, papercuts are a major health risk. You dont know where that paper has been or who handled it before it inflicted it wound. The BOH should look into this. At a bear minimum they should require that all paper sold at Pharmacies have folded edges. Now paper at a mom and pop store can still be sold unfolded.

I think this action is symbolic at best and will have exactly no impact on smoking or smokers. After all they can still get their fix at the supermarket (which sells many of the same items), the local convenience store, gas stations or drug stores in Framingham, Westborough or Marlborough. So maybe it will make someone feel good but that is all. Waste of time and effort in my opinion and if we get sued or spend any time enforcing this money as well.

24 Jerry C December 17, 2010 at 10:39 AM

Neil, if they’re Obama clones, they’ll need to come to an agreement with the Tea Party congress and the Tobacco industry to cut the tobacco tax so they can maximize the sale of tobacco products and maximize tax revenue. Sounds to me like the new Obama.

25 djd66 December 17, 2010 at 12:47 PM

Jerry C –

Ben Franklin: In 1755 (Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor, Tue, Nov 11, 1755), Franklin wrote: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

I don’t know about you, but I take my freedom and liberty very serious. I have been to countries where we would not even have the right to discuss a government decision openly (like we are now) Too many people have died so we can enjoy such liberty and it is extremely upsetting to me to see any liberty taken away. I honestly think this is outragous – for the BOH to ban the sale of a legal substance in one particular kind of store. What if that were your store and you relied on those sales (legal sales) for your store to survive? Why is OK for tobaco products to be sold at the Mobil or Mauro’s but not ok for them to be sold at Walgreens?? the BOH should not be legislating.

26 Jerry C December 17, 2010 at 3:26 PM

Neil, I understand your point about targeting specific stores.

One thing I’d note is that pharmacies are licensed dispencers of medicine. That is their primary purpose for existing. A person could argue that they are under the same moral/ethical constraint as doctors to “do no harm”. Selling cigarettes certainly does the patient harm.

In addition they make a lot of money filling prescriptions, and selling other items, and tobacco is probably not as important to them as other items. I don’t think you’ll hear a complaint out of them, because the revenue hit is not that great, and I’m certain they understand the ethical conflict. Some of the small convenience stores in town, however, probably depend much more on tobacco revenue, and the effect on them would be greater if sales were to be banned.

So that’s basically it. A lot of people like myself have lost people we care about due to diseases caused by cigarette smoking. When you watch people that you love suffer and die in pain you get a little angry what you are seeing and how preventable it could have been.

27 Jeff Beane December 18, 2010 at 9:05 PM

Glad to see there are as many like minded people as me who don’t smoke, try to lead a healthy life style and DON”T want a Nanny state telling us what is and isn’t good for us. It is patently obvious that smoking is bad for one and kills, no question. I support the ban in closed areas like restaurants and public buildings where the smoker may be doing harm to others. For sure they are stinking up my clothes. That, I think, violates my rights. On the other hand, banning the sale of a legal product, as others have pointed out, is a very slippery slope. Banning such sales is just another encochment on freedom that seems all too common since January 2008. What’s next, be sure “they are coming” unless we protest. Who ever said the BOH must have better things to do is right on target.

28 Neil Rossen December 19, 2010 at 10:07 AM

Unless you’re fast asleep, you absolutely know what the 2012 elections are all about. Individualism or Euro-Socialism? You choose.

29 Fred D February 17, 2011 at 7:07 AM

Why exactly is the right to buy cigarettes “freedom”? Free to do what? Die of cancer? What does making cigarettes illegal set a precedence for – banning other things that directly kill you? Cigarettes are not freedom – they are enslavement to addiction. That’s quite the opposite of freedom.

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