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South Windsor Town Council to Discuss Prohibiting Pharmacies From Selling Cigarettes

Dr. Saud Anwar, a Democratic town councilor, is spearheading the effort.

The Town Council will debate, among other things, the issues of corporate responsibility and personal choice tonight at its regular meeting tonight when it discusses the possibility of passing an ordinance banning of the sale of tobacco products at CVS Pharmacy.

The discussion item was first proposed several montsh ago by Town Councilor Dr. Saud Anwar, who has seen firsthand the devastating effects that tobacco products - most notably cigarettes - can have on a person’s health.

“As a pulmonary physician, I treat patients with lungs damaged by smoking,” Anwar wrote in his blog entry on Patch. “Every day, 38,000 persons younger than 18 years, smoke their first cigarette. Once begun, breaking the cigarette habit is a daunting task.”

Anwar noted that 1 in 5 deaths in the United States is attributable to cigarette smoking.

Against that backdrop, Anwar argues that CVS Pharmacy, the only pharmacy in South Windsor, should not sell tobacco products in light of its role in the American health care system.

“CVS has added a clinic to their services,” Anwar wrote. “How they reconcile tobacco sales with health services and sale of medicines is perplexing. Unfortunately, the answer is ‘big money.’ Corporations spend $27 million annually promoting tobacco products each year.  Clearly, profit takes precedence over the health and welfare of their customers.”

But other town councilors have expressed their concerns over limiting people’s choices to purchase or legal products, not to mention companies from offering those products, no matter how harmful they are to the overall health of the community.

Mayor Tom Delnicki said at a Town Council meeting in July that he was concerned about passing a measure that could lead down “a slippery slope.”

“First it's cigarettes, then it’s Slurpees, then it’s Big Gulps,” Delnicki said referring to two popular products that are offered by the convenience-store chain 7-Eleven.

But Anwar in a subsequent interview drew a distinction between products sold at pharmacies such as candy bars and sodas, things that, if consumed to excess, can lead to health problems, and tobacco-related products like cigarettes.

“Cigarettes are unhealthy for people consuming them and also for people around them,” Anwar said, referring to second-hand smoke. “Also, hardly any hospital allows people to consume cigarettes within its own facility. We have evolved as a society where we are trying to protect the community from harming itself or others in the process. …

“It’s a good idea to put a value on people above profit.”

South Windsor isn't the only municipality that is examining ways of controlling within its borders the sale or possession of products that can be harmful to its residents.

According to a published report by MassLive.com, 25 communities have banned the sale of tobacco products from pharmacies and supermarkets that have pharmacies. Springfield passed such a measure in May.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently proposed a controversial ban on the sale of sugary beverages over 16 ounces in restaurants, stadiums and movie theaters.

In 2008, the Supreme Court struck down a Washington D.C. measure that banned the ownership of handguns within the city.

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