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New case study highlights tobacco-free pharmacy policies

​CPHSS recently published its second case study for the Maximizing Policies to Restrict Tobacco Marketing at the Point of Sale project, funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) State & Community Tobacco Control (SCTC) Research Initiative. Along with partners at University of North Carolina and Stanford University, CPHSS is working to address important under-studied aspects of state and community tobacco-control policy and media interventions. The case study, Regulating Pharmacy Tobacco Sales: Massachusetts focuses on an innovative tobacco control policy that prohibits the sale of tobacco in health care institutions, including pharmacies. The case study also highlights Massachusetts localities that have passed such policies.
Pharmacies serve a key role in the health care system by providing tobacco cessation products and advice, yet many U.S. pharmacies continue to sell cigarettes. This practice sends consumers a mixed message about the dangers of tobacco and undermines pharmacist’s efforts to improve the health of their customers. “Many pharmacies now have retail health clinics, so pharmacies have become a bigger player in the delivery of health care services,” said Jason Roche, lead author of the case study. “CVS, the largest pharmacy chain in the U.S., recently announced that they will stop selling cigarettes in the fall. However, communities don’t have to wait for private businesses to make this decision. Instead, they can work on policies that will prohibit tobacco sales in all pharmacies as Massachusetts’ communities have been doing for the last five years.”
In 2008, Boston became the first city in Massachusetts to pass a policy restricting the practice. The policy initiative in Boston was led by youth advocates. Hye Won Lee, Program Associate with the youth group organization The 84, explained why it is so important to involve youth. “Once youth are aware of how they are being targeted [by tobacco companies], they are very energized and want to do something about it. To have them as a partner is very beneficial to move this forward.” 

News of Boston’s success spread quickly. The Massachusetts Municipal Association’s Tobacco Control Technical Assistance Program worked with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to develop a model policy that municipalities could use when drafting their own regulations. Statewide organizations invited physicians, medical students, and youth to testify at public hearings for the policies.
As a result of these efforts, every Massachusetts state senate district has at least one city or town with a tobacco-free pharmacy law. Successes at the local level have been seen as a “tipping point” for broad acceptance of a state-wide policy currently being considered in the Joint Committee on Public Health. Mark Paskowsky, Director of Evaluation at the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program said, “I think that it will move forward. We’re optimistic.”

Primary contributors include project manager Heidi Walsh; staff members Jason Roche, Amy Sorg, Janny Jones, and Laura Brossart; associate center director Dr. Sarah Moreland-Russell; and center director Dr. Douglas Luke. The Massachusetts case study is the second in a series of case studies highlighting innovative point-of-sale policies. The first case study profiled Providence, Rhode Island’s work to regulate price discounting. To learn more about the project or view both case studies, please visit our project page here.

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