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Safeway Challenges SF Tobacco Ban

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Getty Images/Mario Tama
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Getty Images/Mario Tama

The legal skirmish over tobacco sales in San Francisco stores moved into another round as City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a motion in federal district court on Friday to dismiss a lawsuit by supermarket chain Safeway, which seeks to overturn the city’s ban on selling tobacco products in stores that also have pharmacies.

The city passed the ordinance in 2008, and that prompted Walgreens to file suit, claiming the ban was unfair to drug stores because it contained an exemption for big box stores and supermarkets with pharmacies to continue to sell cigarettes.

An appeals court sided with Walgreens, and the city then revised its ordinance so that it applies to all stores with pharmacies—no exemptions. That version is currently in effect.

Safeway’s salvo was filed Feb. 18 and it claims the city law is “arbitrary and capricious” and unconstitutional in that it denies the company its due process rights.

Herrera’s motion was joined by an amicus brief from the California Medical Association, the statewide doctors’ group, which argued that the ban was a public health necessity, supported by medical research.

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