Court Upholds S.F. Ban on Tobacco Sales

PLEASANTON, Calif. — Attorneys for Safeway here are reviewing a decision by a federal judge who ruled Friday the city of San Francisco has a right to ban tobacco sales in stores with pharmacies, even if the pharmacy is not the store's main business.

PLEASANTON, Calif. — Attorneys for Safeway [3] here are reviewing a decision by a federal judge who ruled Friday the city of San Francisco has a right to ban tobacco sales in stores with pharmacies, even if the pharmacy is not the store's main business.

"We are reviewing the ruling, and we don't know yet what our options are," Susan Houghton, corporate director of public and government affairs, told SN Monday. She said she did not know when Safeway would be ready to comment on its options.

The ban would affect 10 Safeways and a handful of other stores, including units of Save Mart Supermarkets [4], Costco [5] and various independents.

A U.S. District Court judge dismissed a suit filed by Safeway against the city that argued supermarkets had a constitutional right to sell cigarettes. According to the judge's ruling, "The purpose of the [city's] ordinance — to promote the public health by preventing people form becoming addicted to tobacco and by helping those already addicted to stop smoking — is legitimate and even compelling."

The ordinance, as originally passed by the city's board of supervisors in 2008, exempted grocery stores and big-box stores with pharmacies under the same roof; however, after an appellate court said the exemption violated equal protection guarantees, the supervisors passed an amendment last year removing the exemption.

Safeway filed suit to contest the amended law. However, the judge dismissed the case last week with prejudice, meaning Safeway cannot file an amended version of its complaint.