SF Tobacco Law Survives Challenge; Attention Turns to Pending SCOTUS Commercial Speech Decision
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today rejected the appeal by Philip Morris that the company has a first amendment right to sell its killer products wherever it pleases. San Francisco’s law to prevent pharmacies, seen by consumers as retail establishments that vend healthy products, from selling tobacco must now withstand another challenge from the pharmacy retail industry itself.
Removing tobacco sales from the pharmacy is an important part of helping Americans live healthier. It eliminates confusion about the role of your local pharmacies: if they sell products that are good for you, why would they also sell tobacco?
The ordinance, the first of its kind in the nation, took effect in October. It prohibits sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products at San Francisco’s nearly 60 drugstores.
Philip Morris said the ban effectively forced the company to pull its advertising out of the stores, interfering with its constitutional right to communicate with customers.
Commercial speech being so important to our current Supreme Court, though, we can probably expect an appeal by Big Tobacco on behalf of their customers who suddenly can no longer be reached in pharmacies.
"The purpose and effect of the ordinance is to suppress communications directed to adult smokers, in violation of our constitutional rights," said company spokesman Jack Marshall.
Why do I have the feeling that Philip Morris is carefully watching the votes and outcome of the current Citizens United case before SCOTUS? Commercial speech protection is very trendy with the Roberts Court; will they decline Big Tobacco’s appeal of the Radical Ninth’s unanimous panel ruling? Stay tuned.