CVS taboos tobacco

For decades, Americans have been aware of the negative effects of tobacco. Millions of people have quit smoking and millions of dollars have been spent to educate young people on the inherent dangers of tobacco use.

While I congratulate CVS Caremark for its bold and—most logical—position eliminating the sale of tobacco products, I wonder why it took so long. Did the mega-healthcare providers influence this decision? Because this pharmacy giant looks to expand its business as a healthcare provider with its MinuteClinics, it needs the support, confidence and prestige that these affiliations can provide.

CVS Caremark Chief Medical Officer Troyen A. Brennan, MD, has been quoted as saying that treating people for diseases like hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes didn’t make sense without taking this action. That smoking contributes to those conditions, and it is counterproductive to have tobacco products right outside the doctor’s door.

Again, I applaud CVS’ actions. Tobacco products are inappropriate for the chain’s mission of health. However, obesity is also a huge public health issue, as is diabetes. I know. I’m diabetic, and when I check out at a CVS, I’m confronted with a 10-foot counter of candy bars right around the corner from the soda cooler.

Oh, and let’s not forget alcohol.

A local Cleveland news station interviewed a CVS employee and asked him about alcohol. He said that it’s not that big a problem. Do alcoholics wear signs when they purchase beer or wine? I believe it is another huge health problem and I’m sure the families of heavy drinkers and the families who’ve lost loved ones to alcoholism or its effects will agree.

High-blood pressure? Eliminate salty snacks. Childhood obesity? Back to the candy counter.

I could go on about allergies, OTC cold medicines, but I won’t. I’m sure you get my drift. If CVS Caremark wants to be a healthcare provider, it should continue to examine the merchandise it sells.

And the $2 billion loss in revenue from tobacco products that’s projected for the chain?  I’m sure other price increases will cover it in no time.

So, while I understand—and even agree with—the decision, will it make a difference? National Public Radio aired data from a 2012 survey on where people buy their cigarettes. Interestingly, only 3.2 percent purchase their packs at drugstores.

Smokers will bemoan the inconvenience, but the CVS decision is sound. Tobacco wars will rage on, but CVS will no longer sell the ammunition.

Topics: Advocacy , Clinical