Hurray! CVS Pharmacy, Peddler of Health Products, Will Stop Selling Cigarettes

It’s been a decade or longer since my little local drug store, a small chain called Arbor Drugs, closed up shop and the property was sold to CVS Pharmacy.

I still remember, though, how shocked I was upon entering the new establishment for the first time, to find that the entire front of the store was filled with crap that was harmful to people:  cigarettes and cigars; liquor; sleazy, off-color magazines, and junk food, marketed with their in-your-face, you-need-this-everyone’s-doing-it approach.  I hadn’t realized, during the years I’d shopped at Arbor, just how family-friendly that business was.  I was so disappointed at the loss of my favorite drug store and the incursion of this new, aggressive marketing that I asked to speak to the manager, then read the poor guy the riot act, listing all the things I found wrong with his business.

In the ensuing years, I’ve sometimes shopped at CVS, and I’ve become somewhat inured to their marketing approach (although I still refuse to carry their card, insisting that they use a store courtesy card to give me their “best price” which, I contend, I should have gotten without having to fill my purse with their advertising messages).

I’m a tough sell.

This morning, though, I read that CVS Pharmacy will, effective in October 2014, no longer sell tobacco products.  CVS Caremark CEO Larry Merlo said of the decision,

“Tobacco products have no place in a setting where health care is delivered.  And when we asked ourselves where we expect to be in the future as a health care company, it became clear that removing tobacco products from our stores is the right thing to do.”

President Obama was quick to praise the company for this surprise initiative, noting that it will have a profoundly positive effect on the health of the country.  In a published statement, the president said,

“As one of the largest retailers and pharmacies in America, CVS Caremark sets a powerful example, and today’s decision will help advance my administration’s efforts to reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer and heart disease, as well as bring down health care costs  – ultimately saving lives and protecting untold numbers of families from pain and heartbreak for years to come.”

The announcement comes shortly after news that Eric Lawson, who played the Marlboro Man in television commercials from 1978 to 1981, had died January 10 of lung cancer at the age of 72.  Earlier Marlboro Men fared poorly, as well:  David McLean, who starred as the Marlboro Man in the 1960s and who began smoking at the age of 12, died of lung cancer and emphysema in 1995.  And Wayne McLaren, a professional rodeo rider who posed for Marlboro in 1976, died of lung cancer at the age of 51.

The 2014 Surgeon General’s Report states that 20,830,000 premature deaths have resulted from smoking in the years from 1965 through 2014.  Since the first Surgeon General’s Report was issued in 1964, cigarette smoking has been causally linked to diseases of nearly all organs of the body, to diminished health status, and to harm to the developing fetus.  Research continues to newly identify diseases caused by smoking, including such common diseases as diabetes mellitis, rheumatoid arthritis, erectile dysfunction, and colorectal cancer.   More than 6 million children alive today will die prematurely from tobacco use.

Larry Merlo of CVS said today:  

“Tobacco products have no place in a setting where health care is delivered.  And when we asked ourselves where we expect to be in the future as a health care company it became clear that removing tobacco products from our stores is the right thing to do.”

My congratulations and thanks to CVS for putting its customers’ health before its profits.


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