Pharmacy or Tobacco Shop – You be the Judge!

Dr. James Metz
Dr. James Metz

So I was thinking… It is time to start a blog. The rest of the world is doing it, so why not me? I have a great staff here at OncoLink that has been encouraging me to do this for quite a while. They know I have strong feelings on a lot of issues surrounding cancer and want me to get those on our website. I am sure some of my comments will be controversial and stimulate conversations, but that is fine. So here it goes…here is a thought from this past weekend walking through one of the big box store pharmacies.

When you walk into a pharmacy, you expect to find medicines and a number of things that help you improve your health or treat a disease or healthcare problem. Of course they sell all kinds of things we use in daily life that may not be related specifically to health. We expect to see greeting cards, toys for kids, news items, photo processors, etc. However, should an industry that promotes health at the same time be selling tobacco products??? Seems a bit disingenuous to me! Pharmacies are taking money from health insurance plans, Medicare, Medicaid, and others to treat a variety of diseases, many of which are caused by tobacco.

There is really no controversy that smoking is bad for you. In fact, it is one of the worst things you can possibly do for your long-term health. The owners of these facilities can’t make an argument that tobacco products are healthcare related. Should these large chains be taking Federal dollars in support of medicines they sell to treat the illnesses caused by tobacco while selling the products at the cash register at check out? It is amazing to me that there has been no ban against this practice. What type of message does this send to the kids walking through the pharmacy each day? “Don’t worry, it’s OK, we are interested in your health and it won’t hurt you!”

These facilities should not offer tobacco products. Many do not list them as products on their websites, but have the full line of products at checkout. It is time for their management to stand up and stop this practice. Many of their slogans say they are the place for health and wellness products. Unfortunately, it is currently about making a buck and not about your health at the pharmacy.

What do you think?

5 thoughts on “Pharmacy or Tobacco Shop – You be the Judge!

  1. I think you’re being naive. Did you see all that candy being sold at the pharmacy? Or all those bottles of “Five Hour Energy”, “herbal supplements” or diet soda? You’re associating “pharmacy” with “health”, instead of “money”. Pharmacies don’t survive and grow by making people more healthy, they survive and grow by making more money.

    1. I disagree that this is naive. It is my belief that many people associate “pharmacy” with “health”. My pharmacy happens to be a Rite Aid. Their mission as stated on their website is; “To be a successful chain of friendly, neighborhood drugstores. Our knowledgeable, caring associates work together to provide a superior pharmacy experience, and offer everyday products and services that help our valued customers lead healthier, happier lives.”
      I hardly think cigarettes help their customers lead “healthier lives”! I suppose though that some folks to find “happiness” in cigarettes. But we all know they are not finding “health”!

  2. I have to agree with Rodney. While there may be a mixed message, I don’t think most people realize the amount of federal funds some pharmacies take in. That being said, these are retail businesses that must compete with big box stores, grocery stores and other retailers. The prescription business is no longer enough to draw patrons to your store. Also, with some of the newer prescription plans they may be making very little overhead behind the prescription counter.

  3. It is not naive at all. I want to draw attention to an issue of exploiting a position in the market place. There should be regulations in place against this type of practice, particulary when federal dollars are involved with paying for the medications needed to deal with the effects of these products. The pharmacies are advertising they are for public health and making money from exploiting individuals with tobacco products at the same time. These companies are further performing physical exams, giving flu shots, offering sports physicals for children, ect. Could you imagine if doctors offices started selling tobacco products and the uproar it would bring?

  4. Barb and Rodney, are you smokers? Regardless of retail competition (and business must be doing just fine as evidenced by the CVS stores every 1.2 miles throughout my neighborhood)it would seem a common sense practice for a pharmacy to exclude tobacco products from its inventory. Candy, diet soda and herbal products do not carry the same black box warning from the Surgeon General that cigarettes display.

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