Richmond council votes to ban cigarettes at drug stores
on October 21, 2009
The Richmond City Council took a cue from San Francisco and voted Tuesday to ban cigarette sales at pharmacies.
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,” Lopez said. “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, Riddle said.
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,” Viramontes said. “Do I want to sue San Francisco or do I want to sue Richmond?”
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 if the ordinance is working in San Francisco, there’s no reason it won’t succeed in 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 (nicotine) patch, and right next to the patch they find the cigarettes. So they’re sending a mixed message,” Williams said. “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,” Waller said. “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,” he said.
Council Member Nathaniel Bates offered the lone dissenting vote against Ritterman’s proposal.
“I just can’t support this,” Bates said. “I’m tired of these Socialist positions (that) keep on popping up where we’re going to save the world.”
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.
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