Tobacco fight may be futile

Consumers should always have a choice in the products purchased, as long as the product is legal to sell, and government should let people have a choice in buying products that may not be healthy.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced he has joined New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in leading an effort to convince the largest pharmacy chains in the country to stop selling tobacco products.

DeWine is correct in stating the fact that tobacco-related disease is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, causing more than 480,000 deaths in the last year alone – more than AIDS, alcohol, illegal drug use, car accidents and firearm-related deaths combined.

But government should not dictate the choice people have to eat red meat, buy fast food, smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol. Prohibition of alcohol sales and use was repealed as a federal law in 1933 because of the hypocrisy of the law. Americans still manufactured and sold alcohol and ignored the rule of law.

Government still has a responsibility to make Americans aware of the health dangers, such as smoking, drinking alcohol and being overweight.

Publishing and even financing studies to show health dangers is one thing, but a line should be drawn when it comes to dictating personal choice.

DeWine believes national retailers should take an additional step in keeping tobacco products away from youth by voluntarily not selling them in the stores with pharmacies. There already are laws in place to prevent stores from selling tobacco products to minors. The stores are already under pressure to follow the laws because state and local law enforcement monitor the sales.

CVS Caremark has made a decision to stop selling tobacco products at its stores. That was a business decision that could cost the chain money, but beer, wine and alcohol can be purchased at pharmacies, depending on state laws.

That is the hypocrisy of the request for pharmacy chains to stop selling tobacco products.

Keeping children from buying tobacco products is a good public policy. But those children, once they become adults, have the choice about whether to use tobacco products, drink alcohol, eat red meat and buy lunch or dinner at fast-food restaurants.

The attorney general as the top law enforcement official in the state putting pressure on pharmacy chains to stop selling tobacco products could be engaging in an effort in futility.