The put upon few over at Phillip Morris have a message for the City of San Francisco: "stop limiting our Civil Rights." I tell you, San Francisco has a lot of nerve. You see, starting October 1st any business that called itself a drugstore was no longer allowed to sell cigarettes. Not surprisingly, cigarette companies were not big fans of this ruling, and fought for a restraining order. Walgreens also got in the act, claiming in it's filing that the act was discrimination against drug stores.
Both were unsuccessful, although there is another hearing on October 30th to decide if an injunction is necessary. Now, I don't want to come off biased here, but good! I am all for anything that restricts tobacco companies, and this law (the first of it's kind in the US) is a good step. To be clear, the law does weasel out and exempt grocery stores and big box stores that have Pharmacies in them.
The civic minded folks at Phillip Morris argued that this law infringed upon their freedom of speech, limiting their ability to communicate with their customers. Putting aside that those seem like two very different arguments to me, they are both specious at best. They can choose to advertise their products in the stores, they just can't sell them. If they make the business decision not to do so, that is not related to the law. As to the free speech issue, I don't want to get all Jeffersonian here, but do corporations really have a right to free speech? Do they even have rights at all? This certainly underscores my belief that treating corporations like individuals is a huge mistake.
Let's be clear, this really has nothing to do with drug stores, it is mainly targetting Walgreens and its ilk. These stores have essentially become supermarkets, but they continue to refer to themselves as drugstores or pharmacies for tax purposes. San Francisco saw an opportunity to regulate the sale of tobacco and took it. Still, it looks like this law will stand (especially if cigarette companies keep arguing that their rights are being hindered..) and could lead to copy cat measures across the country. It's funny, but I have lived in California for so long that I forget that there are still "smoking sections" in some places (although those are getting rarer and rarer, thank goodness..)
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