Leo Levasseur posed with one of his signs while demonstrating outside the London Drugs on Quadra Street on Monday. (Photo courtesy Leo Levasseur)

Saanich resident leads crusade against cigarettes in B.C. drugstores

Province allows drugstores to sell cigarettes and some feel policy should change, retailers disagree

A Saanich resident is leading the crusade against cigarettes being sold in drugstores in B.C.

Leo Levasseur was upset when he realized that B.C. is the only remaining province with no legislation against drugstores selling cigarettes. He feels it’s hypocritical for drugstores to sell addictive products while offering smoking cessation programs.

“I don’t want my tax dollars to go to a drugstore that’s playing for both teams,” he said.

Levasseur, who runs four anti-smoking Facebook pages with a total of 10,000 followers, demonstrated outside the London Drugs on Quadra Street for three hours on Monday morning before being asked to move off the property. He said the manager was kind and understood that he wasn’t protesting against the store itself, but rather the policies put in place by those who run pharmacies.

Levasseur contacted Clint Mahlman, London Drugs president and chief operating officer, to discuss his concerns and Mahlman countered saying that the smoking cessation program is advertised to everyone who buys cigarettes.

READ ALSO: Victoria resident pushes for 100% no-smoking bylaws in multi-unit housing

“Counselling and anti-smoking aids are being offered immediately and in full view at the tobacco point of purchase at London Drugs,” wrote Mahlman in a letter to Levasseur on Aug. 16. He also pointed out that London Drugs has met with 127,000 folks about smoking cessation since 2011.

Levasseur said that offering counselling isn’t enough because the act of selling cigarettes “enables addicts.”

In an interview with Saanich News, Mahlman said he’d never been in contact with Levasseur, but that he was aware of Levasseur’s cause. Mahlman emphasized that London Drugs believes strongly in smoking cessation and seeks to discourage people from starting to smoke.

The company feels that the best method to help people quit smoking is to have strong anti-smoking messaging in the place where they buy cigarettes, he said.

Mahlman also worries that if B.C. were to prohibit drug stores from selling the regulated tobacco products, the only places offering them would be gas stations and convenience stores that don’t also offer cessation counselling.

He also pointed out that London Drugs operates as far east as Manitoba and that the sales of smoking cessation products went down in the provinces that don’t allow cigarettes to be sold in drugstores.

In consultations between London Drugs and the B.C. Ministry of Health, Mahlman said officials saw the merit in offering cessation programs to customers buying tobacco while they’re near a pharmacy that can offer “professional and caring” counselling.

READ ALSO: More than naming a week is needed to tackle second-hand smoke, B.C. woman says

Levasseur has also been in contact with the B.C. Ministry of Health. Matt Herman, a representative from the Ministry of Health office, explained that while the province doesn’t allow pharmacies to display or promote tobacco sales, it’s B.C.’s policy to let drug stores decide to stop selling cigarettes.

Levasseur pointed out that it wouldn’t make sense for the drug stores to stop selling the cigarettes on their own because they’re profiting off the sales.

Mahlman disagrees; he noted that the cigarette industry is declining and that London Drugs isn’t profiting off the cigarette sales made in their stores. The money gets put back into the smoking cessation programs offered in the pharmacies, he explained.

London Drugs, like other pharmacies, offers the provincial Smoking Cessation Program to all eligible B.C. residents that want to quit. The company doesn’t pay for the program, it’s funded by the B.C. government — non-prescription nicotine replacement therapies are free and prescription cessation drugs are partially covered — but Mahlman said London Drugs covers the cost of things like training for staff offering the counselling and printing the advertising materials.

Mahlman said that London Drugs is passionate about getting people to stop smoking, but Levasseur doesn’t believe the company’s heart is in it.

Levasseur’s next steps aren’t solidified, but he’s considering hosting a larger protest and organizing a letter writing campaign to connect with the Ministry of Health.


@devonscarlett
devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Greater Victoria could see a months worth of rain within a week this fall

Weather Network predicts wet, warm fall season for B.C.

B.C. population on pace to fall behind Alberta

Provincial population could reach almost seven million in 2043, but Alberta is growing faster

Defense says burden of proof not met in double murder case against Oak Bay father

Closing statements begin in trial for man accused of killing daughters Christmas 2017

Sealand was much more than killer whales, says ex-employee

Former Sealasd trainer revisits Sealand of the Pacific in talk

UPDATED: Hundreds gather to reflect and remember UVic students killed in bus crash

Campus community invited to reflect, support one another

WATCH: United Way #Drive4Five event launches campaign to raise $5 million

More than 80,000 lives changed last year by the United Way

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of September 17

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Man who crushed Nanaimo RCMP cars with stolen truck gets more jail time

Majore Jackson, 34, sentenced to two more years in jail in provincial court in Nanaimo

B.C. dog breeder banned again after 46 dogs seized

The SPCA seized the animals from Terry Baker, 66, in February 2018

Surrey mom allegedly paid $400,000 for son in U.S. college bribery scam

Xiaoning Sui, 48, was arrested in Spain on Monday night

Three dogs found shot dead in Prince George ditch

The three adult dogs appeared to be well cared for before being found with gunshot wounds, BC SPCA says

B.C. party bus company to be monitored after 40 intoxicated teens found onboard

Police received tip teens and young adults were drinking on party buses and limousines in Surrey

Rick Mercer calls out Conservative candidate in B.C. for fake meme

‘Not true. All fake. Please Stop,’ tweeted Rick Mercer in response

Bear killed in Kimberley after chasing girl, wreaking havoc on town

This particular brown-coloured bear has been the subject of many calls this summer; very food habituated, CO says

Most Read