READING - Leaders from the Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse in Massachusetts, persuaded their Board of Health to ban the sale of tobacco products in local pharmacies. The policy, which took effect in Reading last month, is in line with other communities in the country and in Massachusetts such as in neighboring Boston.
Coalition Director, Erica McNamara, said that the project was completely youth-led, having been spearheaded by the coalition's youth group, Youth Crew. From writing a mini-grant to fund the project to collecting data to presenting their findings to the Board of Health, the youth deserve the credit for the ban, she said.
The youth garnered letters of support for the move from the American heart, lung and stroke associations as well as from local and state-wide advocates.
"During the youths' year-long research process, they found that even the American Pharmaceutical Association thought they should not have tobacco in a place that gives medicine to make you healthy,"Ā McNamara said.
The pharmacies involved included national chain stores Walgreens, CVS and Rite-Aid. None of the stores' management rejected the ban, McNamara said. And the Board of Health will conduct regular compliance checks.
"It was a long process, but we are so proud of (our Youth Crew),"Ā McNamara said. "It's a good lesson that even when you're dealing with large pharmacies, it's still possible to pass a ban and to show big business that we can still have a positive relationship and make a change."
McNamara said that most of the youth in the coalition had a direct connection to someone who smokes, mostly a family member. She said that in their city of 24,000 people, there were 260 deaths directly related to tobacco use in a five-year period.
The Youth Crew has noticed an unrelated rise in youth cigar and smokeless tobacco use, so they have also recently modified the high school regulations to include prohibiting all types of tobacco, not just cigarettes.
"The United States is the only place where tobacco products are sold in pharmacies," McNamara said.
For resources about tobacco use prevention, visit CADCA's Tobacco Initiatives webpage.