NORTH ANDOVER — Rather than “dropping a hammer,” the Board of Health is trying a collaborative approach to discourage tobacco sales, especially to young people.
Board of Health Chairman Dr. Thomas Trowbridge announced last night that Rite Aid, of 525 Turnpike St., has installed opaque doors that obscure its display of cigarettes. The company took this measure in response to a letter the board sent to all local pharmacies asking them to consider discontinuing the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products.
Last year, the board debated whether to order a ban against tobacco sales at pharmacies. Dr. Frank MacMillan, a Board of Health member, pointed out at that time that a drugstore is considered a health care facility because pharmacists advise customers on how they should take their prescribed medicines.
MacMillan, a physician, noted the irony of a health care facility selling products that are known to cause cancer, emphysema and heart disease.
Many people spoke out against the proposed ban and the Board of Health put the matter on hold. Another board member, Joseph McCarthy, said he wasn’t convinced the prohibition would discourage people from smoking.
Eventually, Trowbridge suggested that the board try persuading the pharmacies to voluntarily stop selling tobacco products rather than forcing them to end the practice. The board then authorized him to send a letter with this request to all local pharmacies.
North Andover has five pharmacies, all owned by chains: two CVSes, a Walgreens, a Rite Aid and a Stop & Shop.
Trowbridge said last night two of them responded to the letter. One thanked the board for its concern about the dangers of smoking, but said it would continue to sell tobacco products.
Rite Aid, however, said it would install the opaque doors to make the cigarettes almost invisible. People over 18 can still buy cigarettes at Rite Aid, but they are not in plain view.