AAFE and the NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City have just released an important report documenting the widespread availability of tobacco products in New York City pharmacies and the prevalence of tobacco industry advertising in these establishments.   The report, Prescription for a Healthy City: Making New York City Pharmacies Tobacco Free, includes a detailed examination of pharmacies licensed to sell tobacco in Chinatown and on the Lower East Side in Manhattan, as well as in Flushing in Queens, and Sunset Park in Brooklyn.

The study identified 180 pharmacies and more than 500 licensed tobacco retailers in these neighborhoods. Among licensed locations where complete observations were conducted, 64% of all independent pharmacies no longer sold tobacco products.  On the other hand,  94% of all chain pharmacies visited continued to sell tobacco products.

Our research found that unscrupulous advertising practices persist within the tobacco industry. Most pharmacies selling tobacco products placed them near candy items and smoking cessation products. The majority of pharmacies that sell tobacco products continue to display in-store advertising from tobacco companies and utilize “power walls” which prominently display tobacco products behind cash registers.

Our report recommends curtailing the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies, and working with small business owners to prevent the aggressive marketing of the tobacco industry in their establishments.  AAFE Executive Director Christopher Kui said:

Pharmacies are places that help individuals become healthier and promote wellness. Many independent pharmacies, often owned by practicing pharmacists, are choosing not to sell tobacco products… As providers of health care in our communities, pharmacies know that it is economically viable and ethically correct not to sell tobacco products.

Sheelah Feinberg, Executive Director of the NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City, added:

Pharmacies that sell tobacco products while promoting health are sending a mixed message… Pharmacies should function primarily as providers of health care and smoking cessation medication, not retailers of deadly tobacco products. The Coalition believes prohibiting the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies would send a clear message that they want to protect the health of their customers.  This would encourage healthy living and certainly reduce the number of new youth smokers.

Click here to read the full report.