There are no CVS chains in Washington right now, but the national drugstore giant’s decision Wednesday to stop selling tobacco in its 7,400 stores by October 2014 is a game-changing move that should force competitors to consider doing the same.
Here’s CVS Chief Executive Officer Larry Merlo’s message explaining why the company is letting go of an estimated $2 billion in tobacco sales.
Keep in mind the company can take this bold step because it is expanding its role and generating revenue as a health care provider.
According to this Associated Press story, Target is the only other big-name pharmacy in the U.S. to resist selling tobacco products.Will other major competitors such as Wal-Mart, Walgreens and Rite Aid do the same? They should.
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Last month, The Times’ editorial board published this editorial outlining how tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death in King County and Washington state.
Only about 12 percent of adults in King County smoke, yet one in five deaths is attributed to tobacco use. Health problems and lost wages due to smoking total about $343 million per year. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death, outpacing alcohol, suicide, murder, fires and car crashes combined.
I also blogged for Opinion Northwest about the effects of tobacco use using five charts in this Jan. 14 post. Another commentary published on Jan. 22 outlined additional illnesses now linked to cigarette use 50 years after the U.S. surgeon general first linked smoking to health problems.
So again, bravo to CVS for its bold decision to get out of the tobacco-selling business. The industry spends an estimated $88 million every year in Washington state to market its cancer-causing products to new customers. According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, “Published research studies have found that kids are twice as sensitive to tobacco advertising than adults and are more likely to be influenced to smoke by cigarette marketing than by peer pressure. One-third of underage experimentation with smoking is attributable to tobacco company advertising.”
When the nation’s second-largest drugstore chain finally stands up to Big Tobacco customers should notice.
Patronize those businesses that put public health before profit.
Here’s the CVS company’s official statement:
Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS/pharmacy is 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.
As the delivery of health care evolves with an emphasis on better health outcomes, reducing chronic disease and controlling costs, CVS Caremark is playing an expanded role through our 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners. By removing tobacco products from our retail shelves, we will better serve our patients, clients and health care providers while positioning CVS Caremark for future growth as a health care company. Cigarettes and tobacco products have no place in a setting where health care is delivered. This is the right thing to do.