Medical association backs Herrera's bid to extinguish tobacco ban suit by Safeway
California Medical Association strongly supports City's law as 'consistent with the conclusions of the medical and public health community'
SAN FRANCISCO (April 15, 2011) -- City Attorney Dennis Herrera has moved to dismiss a lawsuit by the Safeway supermarket chain that challenges the validity of a City ordinance banning tobacco sales in stores that include pharmacies. Herrera's motion filed in federal district court today was joined by a brief from the California Medical Association, the professional organization representing some 35,000 physicians statewide, which offered forceful testimony for the sound policy basis of San Francisco's law.
"Tobacco use is our leading cause of preventable death, and it's impossible to argue that protecting public health doesn't include fighting tobacco use -- especially among young people," said Herrera. "Pharmacies exist to serve our health needs. When people in the pharmacy business sell cigarettes, it undermines the medical profession's enormous efforts to warn of the dangers of smoking. I am very grateful for the strong support of the California Medical Association for San Francisco's groundbreaking law. Physicians and the public health community have made great progress in changing social norms about smoking, and their brief today will help us protect the progress we've made to fight tobacco use here in San Francisco. I'm also very appreciative for Sup. Eric Mar's leadership in working to craft this important law."
The amicus brief by the California Medical Association, or CMA, read in part: "CMA strongly supports the San Francisco Ordinance because it is squarely in line with decades of official CMA policy, including recent policy specifically supporting a prohibition on the sale of tobacco products in stores that provide pharmacy services. Such policy mirrors that of the American Medical Association and is based upon sound medical and public health research. In short, the Ordinance is consistent with the conclusions of the medical and public health community that an integral component of the overall campaign against smoking and tobacco addiction must include efforts to address the social norms and messages associated with smoking and to limit the availability, visibility and accessibility of tobacco."
San Francisco's groundbreaking ordinance, which has served as a model for similar laws in a number of cities including Boston and Richmond, Calif., originally contained an exemption for grocery stores and big box stores that contain pharmacies. Last year, however, a California appellate court held that while it found no constitutional problem with the City's general decision to such ban tobacco sales, the exemption for grocery and big box stores violated constitutional equal protection guarantees. Soon after, the Board of Supervisors enacted an amendment, sponsored by Supervisor Eric Mar, removing the exemption, to apply the tobacco sales ban to all stores with pharmacies. That ruling in the California Court of Appeal came in a lawsuit by the Walgreens drugstore chain. Another lawsuit to invalidate the tobacco sales ban was filed by Philip-Morris, which claimed in federal court that the City's ordinance violated the tobacco giant's right to free speech. That suit was dismissed in October 2009.
The current lawsuit is: Safeway Inc. v. City and County of San Francisco, et al., United States District Court for the Northern District of California Case No. CV 11-0761 CW. The hearing on Herrera's motion to dismiss is currently set for June 2, 2011, at 2:00 P.M., before Judge Claudia Wilken in the Oakland Courthouse, 1301 Clay Street in Oakland, Courtroom 2, 4th Floor.
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