Pharmacies in Hollister will no longer have their licenses to sell tobacco renewed as part of a ban enacted Tuesday, June 1 by the Hollister City Council.Councilmembers voted 4-0, with Raymond Friend absent, to modify municipal code to curtail the issuance or reissuance of tobacco retail licenses to local pharmacies, effectively snuffing out tobacco sales at the four Hollister pharmacies that have not already independently decided to stop selling those products.
Dr. Anju Goel, M.D., the San Benito County public health officer, requested the amendment in part to discourage the illegal purchase of tobacco products by minors and to protect children from "being lured into illegal activity through the misconduct of adults" who might sell to them.
Hollister City Manager William Avera said that since tobacco sales licenses are typically applied for in November and issued in January, local pharmacies will have six to seven months to remove tobacco products from their shelves. Asked by Councilwoman Mickie Luna what the potential sales tax impact could be on the city if the ban were put in place, Avera said he believed most local tobacco users who now purchase those products at a pharmacy would instead purchase them at another store, where sales are not banned by the city's ordinance.
Goel encouraged the council to consider the total cost of tobacco use. "For each dollar generated in tax revenue, the state spends $21 in direct costs related to tobacco," such as health care costs and loss of life, she said. "I think what we're gaining in health measures is far more significant" than the potential loss of tax revenue.
The ordinance details legislative findings that will be used to advocate for the tobacco sales ban, including a 2012 study that found that 1 out of 6 adults (18 percent) in San Benito County smoke, compared to 15 percent in the state of California as a whole. "Children are particularly influenced by clues suggesting that smoking is acceptable," the report says, referencing sales of tobacco in retail establishments. "By selling tobacco products, pharmacies reinforce social perceptions of smoking, convey tacit approval of tobacco use, and send a message that it is not so dangerous to smoke."
The report notes that 78 percent of independently-owned pharmacies in the state have become tobacco free, though tobacco products are still sold in 94 percent of chain drug stores. Of the seven pharmacies in San Benito County, three do not sell tobacco and one of the four that does is reviewing that policy at the corporate level.
A survey by county health officials of 336 Hollister residents found that 86 percent would continue to patronize their pharmacy or drug store if it stopped selling tobacco products. Of the independently-owned pharmacies that are tobacco free in California, 88 percent report that they have experienced either no loss or an increase in business since removing tobacco from their shelves, according to the report.
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