AMA backs policy banning tobacco sales in stores with clinics

CHICAGO Physicians are backing a new public health policy that bans the sale of tobacco products and/or byproducts in retail outlets housing store-based health clinics.

The American Medical Association voted to adopt the policy at its Annual Meeting in Chicago on Tuesday.

“It’s ridiculous for stores that house health clinics to sell tobacco products,” stated AMA board member William Dolan, M.D. “To keep the objective of getting and keeping patients healthy, the sale of tobacco products must be banned from any health care facility.”

Additional policies that were voted on during the AMA’s policy-making meeting in Chicago include a rating system for processed foods, opposition to the addition of flavors to cigarettes and elder mistreatment.

The policy that bans the sale of tobacco products in those retail outlets that have an in-store health clinic was brought forth because several states, including Illinois, are looking to pass such legislation. Having the AMA’s blessing could help those states in their pursuit.

“We do not understand how forcing retailers to choose between having an in-store clinic and selling tobacco products serves the broader goal of providing consumers with easier access to high-quality, affordable healthcare. The Federal Trade Commission was clear in its recent opinion regarding retail clinics about the importance of creating an open and competitive healthcare marketplace. Their opinion further reinforced anti-competitive regulations—like those that the AMA is suggesting— would not, in fact, be in the public interest. The Convenient Care Association fully agrees with the FTC’s position,” stated Tine Hansen-Turton, executive director of the CCA. “The CCA remains committed to educating the medical community and decision-makers on the important role retail-based health clinics can play in creating access to affordable healthcare. We look forward to continuing open dialogue with the AMA on the issues of real importance to healthcare consumers: quality, access, affordability, and convenience.”

As previously reported by Drug Store News, the Federal Trade Commission recently approved staff comments regarding proposed regulation of retail health care facilities in Illinois. Among the concerns is the bill’s (HB 5372) prohibition on the location of a clinic “in any store or place that provides alcohol or tobacco products for sale to the public.”

As to HB 5372’s tobacco and alcohol sales restrictions, FTC staff recognized the state’s interest in safeguarding the health and welfare of citizens and that such interests may prompt regulatory restrictions that guard against, for example, the sale of alcohol and tobacco products to minors. However, the rationale for not allowing a clinic in a retail store that also sells tobacco or alcohol is unclear, according to the FTC. At the same time, this restriction could limit the supply of retail clinics and the basic medical services they would provide if retail stores were to decide sales of tobacco and alcohol were more profitable than having a retail health clinic.

Responding to the AMA’s adoption of the new health policy, Walgreens, which owns Take Care Health Systems, issued a statement that read, “Access to health care is limited when regulations focus on products sold by the retailer. Take Care Health Providers can be an effective resource for those trying to quit smoking by offering information on smoking cessation programs and healthy lifestyles, and referring them to products available at the store. Retail health clinics shouldn’t be singled out among other health care facilities that can educate patients on the benefits of not smoking.”

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