RICHMOND, Va. — Philip Morris USA filed suit in federal court here yesterday to overturn a San Francisco ordinance that would ban the sale of tobacco at pharmacies. Philip Morris claims the ban violates tobacco manufacturers’ First Amendment right to communicate to adult consumers about their lawful products. The suit asks the court to delay enforcement of the ordinance that’s scheduled to take place Oct. 1, and declare it unconstitutional. “Although called a ban on sales, the purpose and effect of the ordinance is to suppress communications directed to adult smokers, in violation of our constitutional rights,” said Joe Murillo, client services vice president and associate general counsel for Philip Morris parent company Altria, in a statement. “Likewise, the ban unfairly deprives adult consumers of the opportunity to buy tobacco products from legitimate licensed retail businesses.” Earlier this month, Walgreens filed a suit that challenges the legality of the ordinance. The drug chain, which has 52 locations in San Francisco, is seeking to have the ordinance blocked on the grounds that it’s anticompetitive and unconstitutional, since it does not include grocery stores or wholesale clubs that have pharmacies. A preliminary injunction hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 30.
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