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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Placement and sales of tobacco products and nicotine replacement therapy in tobacco-free and tobacco-selling pharmacies in Northern California: an observational study.

  • Author(s): Pimentel, Liriany
  • Apollonio, Dorie E
  • et al.

OBJECTIVES:Although tobacco is the leading preventable cause of death in the USA, it is routinely sold in pharmacies. In 2008, San Francisco became the first city in the USA to pass a tobacco-free pharmacy ordinance. Over the next decade, 171 municipalities enacted similar policies, and in 2018, Massachusetts banned tobacco sales in pharmacies. Our objective was to assess the perceived effects of tobacco-free pharmacy policies on displays, sales, customer visits and counselling. DESIGN:Observational study and survey. SETTING:In 2017, we visited Walgreens and CVS stores in San Francisco and nearby San Jose, which allows tobacco sales, to assess placement of tobacco and over-the-counter tobacco cessation products (nicotine replacement therapy or NRT). We surveyed an employee at each site regarding the impact that tobacco-free pharmacy policies had had on customer traffic and sales of NRT. PARTICIPANTS:We obtained display data from 72 pharmacies and collected surveys from 55 employees (76% response rate). RESULTS:A majority of respondents at tobacco-free pharmacies (55%) reported that the policy had not affected customer visits. In comparison, 70% of respondents at tobacco-selling pharmacies believed that eliminating tobacco sales would reduce the number of customers visiting their stores. Pharmacies that were tobacco free and those that sold tobacco reported comparable displays, sales and counselling for NRT. CONCLUSIONS:Pharmacies operating under tobacco-free policies did not report reduced customer visits. Greater awareness of this outcome could help pharmacies implement public health recommendations to eliminate tobacco sales.

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