Congratulations! We’re happy you quit, CVS.

Congratulations! We’re happy you quit, CVS.In a landmark declaration on Wednesday, CVS Caremark announced that by October 2014, the company will no longer sell tobacco products in its stores. The company’s CEO, Larry J. Merlo said in a statement, “Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”

We’ve known for years the dangers of tobacco and cigarette smoking. And the documented risks grew even more last month when the Surgeon General released “The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2014 in January. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States. And more than 480,000 people die each year as a result of smoking-related disease. Limiting access to tobacco products is a step in the right direction to solve this problem.

We see month after month and study after study in CHEST, JAMA, The Lancet, and others tying tobacco use more closely to another disease or an increased risk for death. As medical professionals, we see the results, know the dangers, and also understand how hard it is for patients to quit. Coincidentally, our Second Opinion cartoon in the February issue of CHEST deals with just this issue.

Congratulations! We’re happy you quit, CVS.
Copyright February 2014, Reprinted with permission of Rob Rogers.

A pharmacy’s role in treatment and preventative care is important. Our patients seek out a pharmacy for medications and health-care resources only to be smacked with a colorful display of tobacco products at checkout. The contradiction of a health-care establishment selling tobacco products is hard to ignore.

Quitting is hard — for those who use tobacco and for those who sell it. The addictive nature of nicotine is clear, and selling tobacco is a lucrative business. We understand the financial hit associated with a no-tobacco retailer. But we commend CVS for taking a stand on the issue and siding with the health of patients.

It has been an exciting week with the launch of the FDA’s first anti-tobacco campaign aimed at teenagers. And now this announcement from CVS. We’d love to see other retailers follow suit and halt the sale of tobacco products and make the pharmacy a true place of wellness.

What do you think? Are we moving the needle?

Michael H. Baumann is president, American College of Chest Physicians.

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  • ninguem

    Why is this getting so much attention on the news? All they’re doing is positioning themselves to tun a bunch of walk-ins with nurse practitioners programmed to prescribe whatever their corporate master finds profitable.

  • NormRx

    If CVS was truly interested in the health of their customers they would stop selling alcohol, useless weight loss products, trans-fat chips, soft drinks full of sugar, all of the “natural and homeopathic” products that are useless and just empty the wallet of their customers. All CVS is doing is clearing the shelf space for medical marijuana.

    • ninguem

      Oh yeah, good point, I hadn’t thought of that angle.

  • DinoDocLucy

    Next they should take that homeopathic crap off the shelves. GIve us your money for a box of nothing.

  • Patient Kit

    While I have no illusions that this is any kind of altruistic corporate move by CVS, it is still basically a good thing for the public to have tobacco sales removed from pharmacies. In related news, hospitals should continue ousting McDonald’s from their lobbies. But CVS is doing this because, in the longterm, it’s good for CVS as they position themselves deeper into selling healthcare services. The most shocking thing is seeing a major corporation thinking beyond the next few quarterly reports to that longterm plan.

  • Mengles

    While I do applaud CVS for doing this, let’s make one thing clear, this is purely a business decision due to a changing market (emphasis on health, wellness programs, overall health care costs, etc.) Will there be a short term loss? Yes. But not over the long-term as cigarette profit will be replaced with something else – i.e. NP minute clinics.

  • Sara Stein MD

    It’s a great health decision, but probably not altruism. My guess is CVS wants the Express Scripts/Medco contracts and how better to get them than to say to insurers your patients can only come to us to fill their prescriptions, and we don’t sell tobacco products. You don’t give up $2B a year unless there’s something better on the horizon.