Hatred of smokers once again trips up an uneducated public health numbskull. In late July San Francisco became the first city in the country to forbid pharmacies from selling tobacco products. The bright packs of cigarettes sparkling over the checkout counter send the wrong message to pharmacy customers too sick and too stupid, so say the anti-tobacco politicians, to resist the seductive charms of the evil cigarette manufacturers. The innocent eyes of children must also be protected.
Even to lunatic San Francisco the reasons to ban cigarette sales from the neighborhood pharmacy ring hollow since cigarettes are sold in the grocery stores, gas stations and convenience stores that saturate the city. Obviously the only difference between pharmacies and those locales is that only pharmacies also sell Big Drug’s lousy smoking cessation devices. The pharmaceutical industry wishes to end competition between its products, which few people want, and the tobacco products that are popular with a huge segment of the population. When Big Drug talks San Francisco politicians take note and follow orders.
Walgreens, one of the larger pharmacies that will be negatively affected by the tobacco ban, filed suit to overturn it. The company sensibly states that customers prevented from buying cigarettes in its stores can buy their smokes nearby. From the director of Public Health came an astonishingly dumb response:
It’s one thing to say you’re doing it for the convenience of your customers, but to actually sue? To say this is your right to sell the substance associated with the No. 1 cause of preventable death? It’s unbelievable to me.
What’s unbelievable is the tone of the director’s juvenile and petulant whine and how devoid of any coherent argument it is . Worse is to come as Philip Morris, the biggest and baddest cigarette maker of them all, files suit in a federal court to overturn the cigarette sales ban.
Considering PM’s extensive history of double-dealing and double-crossing plus its reputation of being as crazy as a fox it would take a team of legal experts to determine whether this suit has merit or whether it is even intended to deal with the issues it ostensibly addresses.
According to the news item linked to below Philip Morris is arguing against the sales ban on two fronts. The ban in unconstitutional because it suppresses communications directed to adult smokers. In addition to the suppression of information the ban unfairly deprives consumers from buying legal products from legitimate, licensed retailers. Again the director of Public Health responds:
Do you remember any part of the Bill of Rights being about pharmacies selling tobacco?" he asked. "Philip Morris has fought every attempt by public health officials to save lives by curbing smoking … It’s a badge of honor for anyone in public health to be sued by Philip Morris."
We’ll leave aside the non sequitur about public health’s battle with PM and the empty braggadocio about badges of honor and concentrate on his first sentence. Do you, dear readers, remember any part of the Constitution being about the supremacy of a governmental bureaucracy over private enterprise; the tossing aside of property rights based on unproven allegations that an activity practiced by humanity for centuries, is – presto!, at the wave of a wand – forbidden on the premises of those who have the entire responsibility of making a go of their business? Of course not. Such specifices aren’t there because the Constitution is a governing document, not a repository of obessively ennumerated minutia so loved by a society that prefers brute force over reason.
By the way, Mr. Director of Public Health, why are you the individual on record arguing against two law suits challenging a recently enacted law? Despite the inclusion of a quote by one of the San Francisco supervisors, vastly more inane than even the nonsense quoted above, the defense of the law is left to an unelected appointee of a city bureaucracy. A member of the Board of Supervisors, which wrote and passed the law, the mayor, who signed the law or the city attorney who is defending the law in court would have been an appropriate source. The director of public health, as defined by the city charter, does not propose, write or pass laws. His job is to run the public health bureaucracy and leave the politics to those who are elected by the people.
It’s not surprising, however, that the director of public health so puffs himself up and assumes the role of speaking officially for the city. Public health, especially in dysfunctional locations such as San Francisco, is at the apex of the power structure. No interest dare rise higher than those embraced by public health. No authority can contain public health because public health is supreme. Take a real look at the Constitution and count the ways that Health tramples on and disrespects that document.