It becomes the second City of Northfield facility to do so. The Municipal Liquor Store has sold cigarettes for years. Financial considerations, both short and long term, were at the basis of the board’s decision.
“We saw the significant revenue stream that the Muni gets from its cigarette sales and with cost pressures mounting in all areas of the hospital’s operations, it seemed a no-brainer,” said hospital administrator, Ken Stapek.
Board member Gina Lundblad added, “Obviously, smoking is a serious health issue and we have been quite aggressive with our public awareness campaigns. But these programs are expensive to run and since addicted smokers who aren’t trying to quit need to get their cigarettes from someplace, why not us? Why hand over that revenue stream to the Kwik Trips and Cubs when the money could be put to a more constructive use? Why make it easier for [muni liquor store manager] Stephen DeLong to hit his revenue numbers?”
Board member Brett Schlichting noted a recent report on cancer, citing this article in the Strib. “Health officials reported this week that cancer deaths in the United States dropped for the second year in a row. As chair of the board’s long-term planning committee, we can no longer count on a steady climb in the number of patient illnesses fueled by tobacco use. This trend is going to hurt us ten years down the road, so anything we can do to help mitigate this can protect our investment in this fine facility and the high-paying jobs for the local economy that it provides.”
Hospital public relations spokesman Scott Crow indicated that the board was prepared to handle any backlash that might come from their decision. “We’ve retained an attorney from Kirkland & Ellis to advise us, a firm with decades of experience defending tobacco company Brown & Williamson. Although we appreciate the legal work that Northfield attorney Lance Hvistendahl does for us, the board felt it needed someone from a firm who puts the needs of the hospital ahead of general society.”
“I’m appalled at the board’s decision,” wrote American Lung Association of MN Executive Dircector Jennifer Drenckhahn in an email to Locally Grown. “Cigarettes are the only legal product that, when used as directed, still kill you. The city of Northfield should not be profiting by helping to kill its own citizens. Besides, they’re taxpayers. Why kill off that source of revenue?”
Northfield School Board member Diane Berthelsen intends to raise the issue at next board meeting. “The number of 18 year-olds at the high school who smoke is quite high, so the revenue from us selling cigarettes in the high school cafeteria could be significant. I might support the plan if the profits were dedicated to our drug prevention programs.”
11:30am update: Before contacting the hospital or board members about this blog post, be sure to see the comments thread for additional information.