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State Attorney General calls on chain pharmacies to stop selling tobacco products

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: State Attorney General calls on chain pharmacies to stop selling tobacco products
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It takes a lot to quit smoking.

"I would have to want to quit and if I don't want to quit, no matter what, I'm not," said Fran Mastrella.

Mastrella says she's been smoking for a long, long time, and even if her neighborhood drugstore stops selling cigarettes, it wouldn't influence her to give up the habit.

"If I want to smoke, I'm gonna smoke – no matter what," said Mastrella.

Mastrella says she just might have to drive to a smoke shop to get her fix, and that could be the case if Attorney General Eric Schneiderman gets his way. Schneiderman is leading a group of nearly 30 states' attorneys general who are asking major pharmacies to stop selling tobacco products.

"The fact that these stores profit from the sale of tobacco products is completely inconsistent with their efforts to expand their role from health care providers," said Schneiderman.

Five drugstore chains, like Rite Aid, Walmart, and Walgreens received letters detailing the request. Schneiderman says he's confident all will willingly respond.

"If you're going to be about what you say, than get rid of all the products, get rid of the beer, get rid of the pop, get rid of the candy, do it all," said Lenny Stebbins Jr., Dewey Avenue Smoke Shop.

Stebbins thinks Schneiderman is stepping out of bounds with the move, but says it could benefit business in the long run.

"They don't have the right to interfere in trade or commerce or any of that stuff. Granted, it will be great for me. Take them out of all the drug stores. I think they should make smoke shop-only, tobacco-only stores like they did for liquor," said Stebbins.

Even if drug stores stopped selling tobacco products, it may not break a smoking habit but according to the Smoking and Health Action Coaltion, it may help prevent one.

"It's an important step for preventing our youth from smoking," said director Cassie Gratton.

Gratton said major retailers usually have tobacco displays that market to young people, and if this prevents that, it's worth it.

"Youth smoking is still a problem in New York State as well as Monroe County as a whole so we see it as a way to prevent that next generation of smokers," said Gratton.

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