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Monday, March 14, 2011

City Council is not the Board of Health

Recently, the Fall River City Council approved the first reading of a proposed amended ordinance that bans the sale of tobacco products at pharmacies such as CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens. Some of the discussion related to this issue was directed at the point that other Massachusetts municipalities have already approved a similar prohibition. Specifically, a Herald News article indicates that in addition to the city of Boston, four other cities and four towns have prohibited the sale of tobacco at pharmacies.

However, a closer examination of the other Massachusetts municipalities reveals that they followed a different approach. For instance, in the city of Boston, it was not their City Council that adopted an ordinance banning the sale of tobacco at pharmacies. Instead, it was Boston's Public Health Commission (BPHC) that approved the ban on December 11, 2008. Cigarettes were removed from Boston's pharmacies on February 9, 2009 pursuant to the BPHC's ban.

Similarly, the Needham Board of Health voted on July 14, 2009 to approve the ban of tobacco sales in pharmacies.

On May 24, 2010 the Everett Board of Health voted unanimously to ban the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies.

Finally, on December 15, 2010, the Southborough Board of Health voted unanimously to ban the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies.

According to the website TobaccoFreeRx.org, the Uxbridge Board of Health banned the sale of tobacco in pharmacies in 2009, but the ban has been rescinded by a subsequent Board of Health. Additionally, the ban has also been considered by the Walpole Board of Health and the Westford Board of Health.

Newton remains the only municipality where the ban was approved by an entity besides the municipality's Board of Health. Specifically, in Newton, the ban was approved by the Board of Alderman on an 18-3 vote.

With only one exception, all other Massachusetts municipalities that have approved this ban went through the municipalities' Board of Health, and it was that entity that voted whether to approve the tobacco ban.

Why hasn't Fall River followed the same procedure and considered this matter through the Board of Health and not the City Council?

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