Written by Julia Cuthbertson, Community Engagement Manager, Brooklyn
2019 has started off as a Happy and Healthy New Year indeed! As of January 1, pharmacies in New York City no longer sell tobacco products – this includes e-cigarettes and vaping devices. This new law is the last to be implemented from the package of tobacco control legislation passed in August 2017, with the goal of reducing the number of NYC smokers by 160,000.
For decades, toxic tobacco products have been sold in places designed to make you healthy, alongside the very same medication prescribed to treat nicotine addiction and illnesses caused by smoking. This has always been an unfortunately widely accepted paradoxical fixture of the retail environment and one that has stymied tobacco control efforts across NYC. Widespread access to cigarettes has long made it easier to start and more difficult to quit using tobacco and neighborhood pharmacies have acted as gateways to these products.
While tobacco-free pharmacies will improve the general health of communities across the five boroughs, the healthier retail landscape will especially benefit vulnerable populations, who are more likely to live in neighborhoods that are swamped with these deadly and addictive products. It is no coincidence that these populations carry a greater burden of premature death and disease associated with smoking, including many kinds of cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Removing tobacco from the shelves of around 500 stores citywide is important step towards reducing health disparities that have been persistent for so long. There is still much work to do – as nearly 8,500 outlets still provide easy access to cigarettes and vaping products – but transforming pharmacies back into centers for health and well-being is a huge symbolic move and one that will help make New York a city where families can truly thrive.