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Editorial: Ban tobacco sales in drugstores

Not every product on the shelf of your local drugstore is conducive to good health. Candy promotes weight gain and cavities. Beer contains alcohol and is generally high in calories. Tobacco products, however, fall into their own category due to their cancer-causing properties.

That is why a proposed Erie County law that would make it illegal for drugstores to sell cigarettes or e-cigarette products in drugstores is gaining traction in the Erie County Legislature. The concept was first proposed by County Executive Mark Poloncarz in March 2016, when he tried to make Erie County the first in the state to ban tobacco sales in stores that contain pharmacies. The measure hasn’t yet become law, but since then New York City, Albany and Rockland counties have enacted similar bans, along with cities and counties in other states.

Now county legislators have combined the measure with two others in the Public Health Protection Act. Its provisions include a prohibition on smoking in cars if children are passengers as well as a ban on smoking at bus shelters.

There are legitimate concerns about the bill, but they are outweighed by its benefits. The act deserves to become law.

Opponents of the proposal call it overreach by the “nanny state.” After all, tobacco and e-cigarettes are legal for adults to buy. Why can’t a legitimate business sell them, alongside the beer, candy and weight loss pills that drugstores carry?

“We can’t put this in the same category as alcohol,” Laura Krolczyk, a vice president at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, said at a public hearing on the law last week. “This is the largest cause of cancer globally.” And it’s one for which taxpayers are frequently on the hook.

Public health advocates convinced President Richard Nixon to sign a law banning cigarette advertising from radio and television in 1970. Tobacco companies had been the single largest product advertisers on TV in 1969, but the threats to health posed by smoking-related diseases were undeniable.

The TV networks survived the loss of tobacco revenue, and drugstores will, too. It’s time for them to stop profiting off of smokers’ unhealthy, sometimes lethal, habits.

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