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South Windsor Town Council Majority Against Banning Tobacco Sales in Pharmacies

Many councilors said the proposal was too much of an overreach and discounted personal responsibility.

South Windsor resident Kathy Daugherty remembers the exact day she quit her long-time smoking habit.

“Thirteen years, 3 months and 28 days ago, but who’s counting,” she remarked during the Town Council’s regular meeting on Monday.

Still, despite giving up her unhealthy habit in favor of walking and running, Daugherty vehemently opposed a possible ordinance that would ban South Windsor pharmacies - more specifically, just CVS and Target, because they are the only pharmacies in town, though only CVS was discussed - from selling tobacco products.

“If you as a Town Council target one business selling an item that causes harm because there is a MinuteClinic on the premises…why stop there?” asked Daugherty, noting that obesity and diabetes have reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. “Why not remove chips or candy or sugary drinks from the store?”

Town Councilor Dr. Saud Anwar first brought up the item at a meeting in July, but Tuesday was the first time the council fully addressed it as a discussion item.

For Anwar, the issue was a matter of public health and corporate responsibility.

During a PowerPoint presentation, Anwar noted that 1 in 5 deaths in the U.S. were attributable to tobacco use and that smoking was the leading cause of preventable death. He also offered eight counterarguments to claims like South Windsor should also ban Slurpees and Big Gulps, two popular sugary drink items offered by the chain 7-Eleven.

Anwar noted that there was no acceptable level of ingesting a cigarette, though there are acceptable levels of consuming candy bars, sodas and alcohol.

What’s more, pharmacies - particularly ones with clinics like CVS - are part of the health care industry, Anwar said, and, therefore, bears a responsibility to keep from selling inherently dangerous, harmful products.

“A pharmacy is a place you should go to get better, not get cancer,” Anwar said during his presentation. “It is physically wrong to sell cigarettes in the same place. … It is not me versus you or a political issue

But the Republican majority on the Town Council and members of the public who weighed in on the discussion said that the council either should not: 1. infringe on one’s personal responsibility from refraining from or choosing to use tobacco; 2. single out CVS from engaging in legally sanction commercial trade; or 3. overreach in its responsibilities as a local governing body.

Deputy Mayor Gary Bazzano said that while he was against smoking, he would be more likely to support a measure that would ban all businesses - not just pharmacies - from selling tobacco products.

“If you just say to CVS, ‘You can’t sell cigarettes,’ I don’t think that solves the problem,” he said.

Councilor Kevin McCann said that the Town Council would overextend its authority by imposing such a ban.

“What we’re talking about is the use of power by the Town Council,” McCann said invoking the term “Big Brother.” “Do we say we know what is best for everyone and what they can and can’t do?"

“Democracy isn’t two wolves getting together with a sheep and deciding what to have for dinner. Having power doesn’t mean we have the right to do it,” he said.

Councilor Cindy Beaulieu agreed that she was uncomfortable with what the town charter allowed the council to do as well as whether there was a disconnect between Anwar’s presentation and CVS.

Mayor Tom Delnicki concluded by stating that he did not want to single out CVS - which he characterized as a convenience store that happened to have a pharmacy - and have it lead down a slippery slope of having to ban Halloween candy, chips and sugary drinks.

“I don’t want to put a target on [CVS’] back,” he said.

But Anwar responded that he was not singling out CVS; it just happens to be the only pharmacy in town.

“If we had 20 pharmacies in town, I would be proposing banning tobacco sales in 20 pharmacies,” he said.

Anwar also was not without his supporters.

Councilor Keith Yagaloff said that he knew of several communities in Massachusetts that banned the sales of tobacco products from pharmacies, including Boston and Wellesley.

Yagaloff said that the council had an obligation to promote the general health, welfare and safety of its residents, and that included banning tobacco products from pharmacies.

He noted that other methods of selling cigarettes, including vending machines, had been banned from places where children were, or were likely to be, present.

“We need to take incremental steps forward,” Yagaloff said.

The discussion sometimes turned tense, highlighted when Councilor Cary Prague stood up and left the podium and sat in the public seats when Yagaloff said that Prague admitted that he was being “partisan” by not backing Anwar’s proposal.

Still, at the end of the two-hour discussion, it was clear that Anwar’s proposal was not backed by a majority on the council.

Several councilors suggested that Anwar take up a boycott or write letters to CVS’ parent company about changing its policies. Daugherty said that she would work with Anwar to form educational policies to prevent children from taking up smoking to begin with.

"I'm here because I want you as a Town Council to do your job," Daugherty said. "Fix the leaking elementary school roofs...that's an issue of public health."

But Anwar remained undaunted, even if he was in the clear minority, stating that he "expected more" from CVS, the town, the community and the people.

"It's not a matter of personal responsibility," he said. "A child doesn't know any better. I recognize that I am in the minority, but I stand by what I believe in."

Correction: The article originally stated that CVS is the only business in South Windsor with a pharmacy. Target also has a pharmacy. South Windsor Patch regrets the error.

Dana September 18, 2012 at 11:15 AM
There are so many more issues the town council should be addressing that has a impact on the residents of South Windsor, banning sales of cigarettes from CVS will not stop anyone from smoking. Town Council, please do something productive!!
doug September 18, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Councilor Dr. Saud Anwar's intentions to help protect the health of our populace is a positive thing. However, the method of using town legislation, in my opinion, is not the correct means of achieving this. As was brought up, continued education of our children in the dangers of the use of tobacco is probably one of the best methods.
Tony Fornuto September 18, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Dr Anwar does bring up a good point about how CVS is also part of the health care industry. When they were just a variety store with a pharmacy, it was one thing, but when they put in the "Minute Clinic," they laid claims on that themselves. Would you tolerate a candy machine at your child's dentist? No, you would not. Yet banning a "health clinic" from selling cigarettes is an overreach of Orwellian proportions? The fact that partisan politics would play into this discussion is also quite disturbing. I am certain, however, that the fact that CVS's landlord is a major player in the South Windsor Republican party had nothing to do with it. Thank you, Dr Anwar, for bringing this important issue to the forefront. You do the citizens a great service!
Hugh Brower September 18, 2012 at 02:26 PM
If we can ban porn shops, pawn shops, and gun shops, then we should also be able to ban sales of cigarettes. And if you remember, the town does want to regulate tattoo parlors. But I don't like the idea of only targeting CVS. Any measure should target all cigarette sellers/sales. Maybe the better solution is to force them to lock up the cigs out of sight, like they do with cold medicine. And have large signs at the point of sale, saying "If You Smoke Then You Will Die!" I think that would cut into sales quite a bit.
Tim Appleton September 18, 2012 at 02:41 PM
"The discussion sometimes turned tense, highlighted when Councilor Cary Prague ... admitted that he was being “partisan” by not backing Anwar’s proposal". This is exactly what is an anathema to voters today. Innovative ideas regarding public policy struck down solely based on petty, partisan bickering. I agree with Dr. Anwar, his proposal is sound public health policy at the same time respect Mayor Delnicki's concerns about economic development. Because public health policy and economic hardship does not discern political party, perhaps there is a basis for compromise. It is called "governing" and why we have elections. Too bad some on the Town Council are more interested in petty partisan "politics". Concerned residents should not be surprised at Councilor Prague's ham-handed, derisive injection of petty, partisan, politics into this debate. This sort of behavior is exactly why nothing gets done in Washington, and apparently, South Windsor as well.
kev September 18, 2012 at 08:28 PM
If the town bans cigarette sales at CVS, they should just move over the town line to Manchester where they would be appreciated.
Pam Petersen September 18, 2012 at 09:38 PM
Really.....Has the Town Council nothing better to do that to ban the legal purchase of cigarettes? I really doubt that this would ever pass mostly due to the deep pockets of CVS corporate and their ability to litigate for years. I hope the town doesn't waste anymore time and money on such a stupid proposal. Kids and adults will still be able to get their cigarettes whether or not CVS, or any other retailer, is "banned" from selling them. Let's worry about our town buildings, roads, schools and expenditure of taxpayer money before we worry about something the parents should be teaching the children.
Dana September 18, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Exactly my sentiments. The Council needs to do things that will help the majority of its residents.
Cole Lucas September 18, 2012 at 11:58 PM
How about we vote out of office Doctors who believe in the nanny state?
kev September 19, 2012 at 02:19 AM
a voice of reason! too bad there arent enough of them around.
Saud Anwar September 19, 2012 at 02:57 AM
Dear Dana Thank you for your comments. Please see town website. www.southwindsor.org and see the previous and current discussions (all remain recorded) and you will get a glimpse on what has been discussed and what has been planned at various levels. Please also note who are the people doing the work and discussing the pro and cons of all the discussions. Please also consider seeing the presentation that I had made with an open mind and your question and reasons are answered in the presentation. The challenge with public health policy issues is that it requires about 7 to 10 minutes of attention span to understand why it is needed. Please consider giving that time.
Saud Anwar September 19, 2012 at 02:58 AM
Dear Ms. Peterson, CVS knows that the litigation would not go anywhere. Look at the situation in MA. Multiple towns have already done this and the community members over there are appreciative of it. The point of sales mixed messages need to stop and the children and teens in the community should not be seeing health products and cigarettes together.
Saud Anwar September 19, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Dear Mr. Lucas, This is what CDC has also said is something that needs to be addressed at local level. Local policies help reduce access to the youth and teens. This is what has happened in the past as well. According to current estimates 50 + Middle school children and over 250 high school children in South Windsor may call themselves smokers. These children may live approximately 14 to 25 years less than their classmates who do not smoke. If in this process of trying to help protect these children and others, I lose your vote, it is OK. If even one child’s life is saved form these efforts, it is worth it. No one likes to take up multibillion-dollar companies just for fun. Their capacity to have proxies on websites and email systems as well as other means of teaching lesson to the ones who stand up are well known. I believe in placing value on human life and respectfully feel that health care facilities should NOT sell cancer causing tobacco products and I also feel that that all tobacco sales at point of sales should have their products not visible just to protect the normalization of these products for the young people. (As also suggested by Hugh Brower).
Saud Anwar September 19, 2012 at 03:05 AM
As a lung doctor, I have to live with telling (at times) 35 years olds and 45 year olds that they have lung cancer. I also see good people die everyday with difficult deaths from their inability to breathe. These are all preventable. I think it is worthwhile for us as a caring community to help protect the next generation at least in our community. Our previous generation had shown leadership and that is why we do not have cigarettes sold close to our schools in vending machines and children and teens no loner getting free samples of cigarettes. We still have some more work to do. Health care facilities should not be selling cigarettes.
Cindy September 19, 2012 at 12:21 PM
Dear Dr Anwar, Thank you for your leadership. You and Councilor Yagaloff are the only two with the courage to stand up to these corrupt corporations. I was shocked and saddened to see that Kathy Dougherty had become a spokesperson for Philip Morris. I could not believe how unprofessional her behavior was and how she was protecting the companies who have targeted our teens. I guess it makes sense in some ways, as the Republicans want a woman who made her money from selling sex and violence to lead us in Senate. They have no understanding of ethics and morality. Thank you again and please do not be discouraged by some of these people. You have a lot of people in our town who support and appreciate what you are doing.
Pam Petersen September 19, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Mr. Anwar, Thank you for your thoughts but as I stated, why is the town wasting time and resources on something the parents should be teaching their children. If you don't want to send mixed point of sales messages, then why is it okay to sell unhealthy snacks and sodas in the schools? Why do we have to station two police officers in the schools when again, the parents should be teaching their children respect and right from wrong. In my opinion, it all boils down to the fact that some of the parents in town are not doing their jobs, instead they are trying to be their kid's friend instead of being a parent. Whether or not this idea passes, don't you agree that the children will get their cigarettes someplace else?
kernelpanic September 19, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Tony - If my child's dentist had a candy machine in his office, I might question his commitment to my child's dental health, and perhaps choose a different dentist. I wouldn't try to pass legislation that makes it illegal for him (and only him) to sell legal goods. Everyone knows cigarettes are unhealthy, it's not about that. It's about the govt acting like big brother, and doing so in an arbitrary way that unfairly targets specific businesses and doesn't solve the actual problem anyway.
kernelpanic September 19, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Agreed. Perhaps he can run for City Council in NY where they recently banned sodas larger than 16oz (no I'm not kidding). Anwar already stated that he is not targeting sodas because they are safe in moderation. That leads me to believe that targeting large sodas in SW could certainly be on the horizon if we just let him push us over the top of this slippery slope.
kernelpanic September 19, 2012 at 06:50 PM
It only takes 7 to 10 * seconds* of attention to realize that this is a great example of govt overstepping its mandate. That notwithstanding, it doesn't actually help smokers anyway. I find it highly unlikely that making it illegal for one or two business in a town to sell cigarettes will reduce the number of cigarettes smoked. You don't think smokers are going to buy their cigarettes somewhere else? People used to drive to MA to get alcohol on Sunday before CT emerged from the Dark Ages. You don't think they'll drive 1000ft to get their cigarettes?
kernelpanic September 19, 2012 at 06:52 PM
You'd be better served determining how underage smokers are getting their cigarettes and enforcing the existing laws to stop it. I highly doubt they are getting their cigarettes from CVS. BTW, more kids die from auto accidents than anything else. Perhaps they should be banned from motor vehicle travel.
kernelpanic September 19, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Judging by the reaction, it sure doesn't seem like "a lot of people" support this legislation. It's not a matter of protecting cigarette manufacturers, it's a matter of protecting the right of the people to make their own choices. It's also about protecting free market economics and not unfairly targeting specifics business like CVS and Target, while completely ignoring the other (dozens?) of businesses that will still be allowed to sell cigarettes.
Saud Anwar September 20, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Dear Ms Petersen According to the American Heart Association, the pharmacies are relevant here because of the ban of sale of tobacco in the pharmacies results in the key component of denormalizing tobacco use and that such denormalization leads to fewer individuals starting to use tobacco and more individuals trying to quit. Your point of personal responsibility and good parenting is absolutely correct. We can only hope that more and more parents through various means of education will start to focus on some of these aspects as well. Having critical conversations at home on not only tobacco but so many other potential risks out in the community is something every parent/parents should be having at the dinner table. However, judging by the current challenges of ongoing teen smoking and marijuana use, either these conversations and not happening or are not registering. I think our state may not have done enough on some of these components and the federal government also may be behind in many respects. We have a choice either to deny the challenge or at least use various mechanisms to begin to reduce this. Education at the level of the community and the schools his peace of the missing puzzle which needs to be further enhanced as well. The cost involved from emotional, psychological, physical and financial perspective of stopping smoking is far more been identifying ways of reducing the number of people picking up these habits. Thank you again for your comments.

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