When CVS Caremark announced last week that it would phase out the sale of tobacco products at more than 7,600 of its drug stores, it became the first national pharmacy chain to stop the sale of tobacco products - which includes cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco. The decision is estimated to cost the company up to $1.5 billion in yearly tobacco sales. The products will start vanishing from CVS shelves and wont be available by Oct. 1 of this year.
The national drug store chain says the decision was made because of its mission to help protect peoples health. Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose, says Larry Merlo, CVS Caremark president and CEO. Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS/Pharmacy is the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health.
An article published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association sheds light on this historic decision. The article co-authored by Dr. Troyen Brennan, CVS chief medical officer, and Dr. Steven Schroeder, director of the University of California, San Francisco's Smoking Cessation Leadership Center realizes the paradox of cigarette sales in pharmacies and states that this situation has become even more relevant recently due in large part to pharmacy industry changes and reinforcement of emphasizing the social unacceptability of smoking.
Most pharmacy chains are retooling themselves as an integral part of the health care system, the study states. They are offering more counseling by pharmacists, an array of wellness products and outreach to clinicians and health care centers. Perhaps more important, pharmacies are moving into the treatment arena, with the advent of retail health clinics. These retail clinics, originally designed to address common acute infections, are gearing up to work with primary care clinicians to assist in treating hypertension, hyperlipidemia and diabetes all conditions exacerbated by smoking.
And the American Lung Association agrees. The ALA commends company leaders for their forward-thinking decision to prioritize the health and well-being of current and future customers and employees and for helping create a tobacco-free generation of youth, says Harold Wimmer, national president of the American Lung Association. We urge more retailers to take note of CVS Caremark's actions and join in efforts to help reduce access to tobacco and tobacco use, and eliminate tobacco-caused deaths and disease.
Thomas Glynn, director of science and trends for the American Cancer Society, does too. Its a big deal one of those death knell events the tobacco industry has feared for some time.
Otis Brawley, the American Cancer Society's chief medical officer, added, Its an act of courage. Research shows that making cigarettes even slightly less accessible has a measurable effect on smoking, especially for kids, who have fewer ways to get tobacco.
Smoking is the leading cause of premature disease and death in the United States with more than 480,000 deaths annually. Tobacco use causes many different cancers as well as chronic lung diseases such as emphysema and bronchitis, heart disease, pregnancy-related problems and many other serious health problems. While the number of Americans who smoke has dropped from about 42 percent of adults in 1965 to 18 percent today, more interventions such as reducing the availability of cigarettes is needed.
While this is a positive move from a health perspective, the obvious question is: What about alcohol, processed canned foods, and unhealthy snacks and sweets that also line CVS shelves?
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