UPDATE 2-Walgreen sues San Francisco over tobacco sale ban

Wed Sep 10, 2008 1:41pm EDT

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(Recasts, adds quote from SF City Attorney spokesman, changes dateline previous CHICAGO)

SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 10 (Reuters) - Walgreen Co (WAG.N) is suing the city of San Francisco over legislation that would ban the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies, but city officials said Wednesday the drugstore chain faces an uphill battle in striking down the new law.

The lawsuit, filed in state court in San Francisco on Monday, argues the ordinance is illegal because it targets drugstores while ignoring other retailers that have pharmacies and sell tobacco products, including some grocery stores.

The lawsuit seeks to have the ordinance declared unconstitutional and adopted improperly under city law and seeks to prevent the city from enforcing the ordinance.

A spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera said Walgreen will have to prove to the court that city officials had no basis for the controversial law.

"The basis for this is that as consumers we rely on stores like Walgreens to provide for health care needs, not to enable deadly habits," spokesman Matt Dorsey told Reuters. "As deadly habits go, they don't get much worse than cigarette smoking, which is the leading cause of preventable death."

A hearing in the case was scheduled for Sept. 30, a day before the ordinance was to go into place, Walgreen spokesman Michael Polzin said.

Boston, too, is currently considering a similar ordinance over the sale of cigarettes. The city's public health commission gave preliminary approval last week to regulations banning tobacco sales on college campuses and at drugstores. (Reporting by Brad Dorfman, additional reporting by Jim Christie in San Francisco; Editing by Andre Grenon)

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