In 2014 CVS announced they would no longer sell cigarettes, a move their CEO Larry Merlo said was "simply the right thing to do for the good of our customers and our company. The sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose – helping people on their path to better health.”

Other drugstores like Walgreens did not follow suit. That's called a free market, folks. CVS had every right to make that business decision and Walgreens had every right to make theirs.

Along comes State Sen. Joe Vitale and other hypocrites who have no problem enjoying figuring out projects on which to spend cigarette sales tax revenue but yet are now pushing to ban drug stores from selling this legal product. In 2018, the sales tax on cigarettes brought in $611 million to the coffers of New Jersey. I don't remember hearing Joe Vitale taking any stand calling it blood money and refusing to have any portion of it go to pet projects.

Yet here's Vitale saying private companies should not be allowed to sell a legal product off of which the state of New Jersey itself makes money. Unbelievable hypocrisy. His justification? He calls drugstores "health care facilities" since they do things like give vaccinations and perform blood pressure screenings. Therefore they should not be selling anything that is harmful.

But get this. While drugstores like Walgreens would be barred from selling cigarettes other pharmacies like the ones inside department stores and big box stores would be exempt. Those retailers pushed hard for the exemption according to an article on NJ.com. So those drugstores are suddenly NOT "health care facilities?" Vitale has a case of hypocrisy on top of hypocrisy.

There are those who see cigarettes as something that should be banned altogether, like John Ioannidis, a physician and Stanford University statistician who wrote that opinion for a British medical journal recently. He tied it in with the pandemic saying if we can close businesses down and destroy an economy when we have over 400,000 people die in one year from this virus then why should we allow cigarettes to remain legal when they kill over 400,000 people every single year? Whether you think he has a point is, well, not the point. The point is at least he's consistent. Whereas this half-baked nonsense from Vitale now going up for a full vote in the senate is anything but.

Either cigarettes are so bad that the government needs to take a stand and protect the citizenry from its own bad choices or it is a vice that was best left at protecting only unwilling participants from second-hand smoke which we've already done with restrictions. To leave it legal and reap the benefits of taxation but at the same time pass laws telling pharmacies which ones can and can't sell it is specious at best.

Also, if the gold standard of Sen. Vitale's moral play here is "health care facilities" should not be in the business of selling products that can do harm, where is his legislation to take their candy aisles away? Where is the legislation to ban Dove bars and Ben & Jerry's from their freezers? Why am I allowed to see more shelf space dedicated to bags of potato chips than antacids?

Again, the hypocrisy.

Should this become law, to what end exactly? Does Vitale really want to see smoking rates cut in half and give up hundreds of millions of dollars from pouring in to the state budget? No, he just wants to look good. He wants to look responsible and appear to be doing something. If he meant it, he would never have excluded pharmacies in Target or Walmart or Costco from his proposal. They just lobbied harder. Will people really give up smoking because they have to go to other stores that still carry them? Of course not. It's a proposal that in the end does nothing yet was embraced in a 5-3 vote in the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee by politicians who are virtue signaling. Allow businesses to make their own decisions. You guys in Trenton figure out how to consolidate school districts, lower property taxes, reform the collapsing pension system and repair roads with less expense. You know, the unsexy, hard stuff that would actually make New Jersey livable again.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski. Any opinions expressed are Jeff Deminski's own.

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