Where there’s smoke, there’s ire
It’s a distinction that has provincial anti-smoking groups embarrassed.
At the end of May, B.C. will become the only province or territory in Canada where you can buy a pack of cigarettes while filling a prescription.
In Canada’s other remaining holdout, Manitoba, a ban on selling tobacco products in pharmacies comes into effect on May 31.
“We’re the last ones,” said Scott McDonald, president and CEO of the B.C. Lung Association, which is calling for Victoria to enact similar legislation.
“It’s a little embarrassing.
“We used to be leaders in tobacco control initiatives and this one, I think, is fairly important. It’s a symbolic thing as much as anything.”
A survey of Kamloops pharmacies by KTW found only a few actually take advantage of the ability to sell cigarettes.
In all cases, the stores are chain operations that sell a range of other products — from digital cameras to groceries — in addition to providing pharmacy services.
Pharmacy-only outlets in Kamloops do not sell cigarettes.
Even among the chain stores, availability isn’t consistent.
In the case of Shoppers Drug Mart, its stores in Valleyview and on the North Shore still offer tobacco products, but its Sahali location does not.
Tammy Smitham, vice-president of communications for Shoppers Drug Mart, said that’s because the company is trying to phase out its tobacco sales entirely.
“We’re committed to improving the health and well-being of Canadians, so I think, obviously, the risks to people’s health associated with smoking have been proven,” she told KTW.
But, she said, the company hasn’t pulled cigarettes off its shelves entirely because of its financial responsibility to shareholders.
“Taking that into mind, what we’ve done in B.C. is any new stores that we build we do not put tobacco in those stores,” Smitham said.
“But, in the existing stores right now, we continue to have tobacco there.”
McDonald said the Kamloops experience is typical.
In most cases, he said, cigarettes and pharmacies are only found together in big-box stores.
However, even if tobacco and medication are sold on different sides of the store, McDonald said he thinks the symbolism is off.
“I think it’s a pretty obvious place where tobacco shouldn’t be sold.
“A pharmacy is a place where people go to get well. It contradicts my thinking at least, that tobacco is available in the pharmacy,” he said.
And, McDonald added, one less place to buy cigarettes makes it that much more inconvenient to smoke.
“It’s trouble. The more trouble it is, the more likely you are to quit.”
However, while his organization, along with the B.C. and Yukon Heart and Stroke Foundation, are making a renewed call for legislation, McDonald doesn’t expect any movement from the B.C. government.
“This government, what they say is they want business to make their own decisions about things like this.
“So, they don’t want to impose legislation on business,” he said.
“But if you don’t impose, people would still be smoking walking around in the mall.”