Walgreen Can Challenge City Ordinance on Drug Store Tobacco Sales

Walgreen Co., Deerfield, Ill., was given the go ahead to proceed with a lawsuit challenging San Francisco’s first-in-the-nation law banning sales of tobacco products in some pharmacies, a California appeals court ruled, earlier this week.

SAN FRANCISCO — Walgreen Co., Deerfield, Ill., was given the go ahead to proceed with a lawsuit challenging San Francisco’s first-in-the-nation law banning sales of tobacco products in some pharmacies, a California appeals court ruled, earlier this week.

The ordinance, passed in 2008 on the premise that drug store cigarette sales give "tacit approval" of unhealthy tobacco use by allowing pharmacies that are visited for health services to sell cigarettes. The law does not apply to grocery and or other big box stores.

The ruling reversed a San Francisco judge’s decision to dismiss Walgreen’s case. A state appeals court here said there’s no rational basis to believe that the message conveyed to consumers by tobacco sales at Walgreen is any different than that from sales at supermarkets or big-box stores.

Walgreen, which claims the city’s law is anticompetitive, can now challenge whether the rule violates equal protection rights under the law, the appeals court said in the ruling.

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