CVS makes right move to end tobacco sales

There are not many folks who voluntary decide to do something that will cost them money. The list is even shorter when you’re talking about giving up revenue that’s reported in the $2 billion range.

Yet, that’s what CVS Caremark Corp., which is changing its name to CVS Health, did when it recently stopped selling tobacco products even earlier than the deadline of Oct. 1 it set for itself. CVS is the first national pharmacy to take this step that will cost it an estimated $1.5 billion in direct tobacco sales and the related purchases customers make when buying cigarettes. Here on Kauai, this means the two Longs Drugs stores, one in Kapaa and one in Lihue, are no longer offering tobacco products.

So, why is CVS doing this? Nothing too complicated. The goal is to reduce the number of smokers and help people stop using tobacco products. The company says selling tobacco “was not in keeping with its broad mission of providing health services and advancing innovation.”

“CVS Health is always looking for ways to promote health and reduce the burden of disease,” said Troyen A. Brennan, M.D., M.P.H., Chief Medical Officer of CVS Health. “Putting an end to the sale of cigarettes and tobacco will make a significant difference in reducing the chronic illnesses associated with tobacco use.”

We applaud their efforts.

This was no small decision. CVS is the second largest drugstore chain in the country, trailing only Walgreens. It has nearly 8,000 retail locations. CVS could have continued to sell tobacco and make big bucks.

It opted not to put money first, but instead consider the health and well-being of its customers and all who use tobacco products. This country, despite the medical evidence showing the negative effects of tobacco, continues to smoke. Try 42 million, 18 percent, of this country’s adults smoke. And kids are smoking, too. It’s reported that each day, more than 3,200 persons younger than 18 years of age smoke their first cigarette.

Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said this: “CVS Health’s decision represents the bold action needed from all segments of our society to accelerate progress against tobacco and make the next generation tobacco-free. It comes appropriately as the nation this year marks the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health.

Myers also noted that the latest Surgeon General’s report, released in January, reported that smoking kills 480,000 Americans annually, sickens millions more and costs the nation more than $289 billion in health care expenses and economic costs every year. The Surgeon General also underscored that tobacco use is first and foremost a pediatric epidemic – 90 percent of adult smokers began at or before age 18, and 5.6 million kids alive today will die prematurely from smoking-caused disease unless current trends are reversed.

“Responsible retailers should not be selling products that cause so much harm to our nation’s children and health,” he said.

CVS is doing more than banning sales of tobacco products. It recognizes that giving up smoking is difficult. It wants to help people kick the habit and continue on a tobacco-free path. That’s why it will introduce a smoking cessation program and an enhanced selection of nicotine replacement products in select stores.

Critics will point out that tobacco is legal and people have the right to buy it and use. And they still can. They just can’t buy it from CVS.

We don’t begrudge anyone the right to smoke. We just ask that they look into its health effects and ask themselves if it’s really worth it.

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