CVS strives to improve health of America

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By Brooke Morrison

CVS Caremark recently announced to stop the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products, said to be in effect by Oct. 1, 2014.

Since CVS is one of the most popular pharmacies in the United States, they are hopeful that this will start a chain reaction and encourage other pharmacies like Rite-Aid and Walgreens to follow suite.

CVS decided to make the change based simply off the fact that selling cigarettes was contradictory to their values of improving health. This makes CVS the first chain of national pharmacies to eliminate the sale of tobacco products.

“Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS is the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health,” Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Caremark, said in a statement.

“Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose,” he said.

CVS is one of the largest retailers and pharmacies in America, operating more than 7,600 stores nationwide and more than 800 Minute Clinics.

CVS’s decision to stop the sale of cigarettes will help the industry’s efforts to reduce tobacco related deaths from cancer and heart disease. Everyone is aware of the health problems smoking causes. More than five million deaths per year can be attributed to tobacco.

CVS is also very passionate about the FDA’s newly released anti-smoking campaign to get all tobacco products out of the hands of America’s youth, so they are helping be a part of that movement.

CVS can expect to see a 2 billion dollar decrease from sales, but they are prepared to take the hit. Ultimately, they believe in standing behind the decision, based off the notion that health care and tobacco can’t coincide with one another.

The company has also seen growing revenues in recent years, boosted by its pharmacy services and prescription drug sales. CVS also reported a 15 percent jump in revenues from the previous year in 2013. So even with the cut of tobacco products, CVS isn’t likely to feel any major financial backlash from the decision.

The fight to eliminate the influence of tobacco companies is not new. By removing the ability to purchase of tobacco, CVS also takes away advertising exposure. People who stop into CVS will no longer see the display of tobacco products available.

CVS also announced their plans to launch a national smoking cessation program in the spring. The program will also include information and treatment at CVS/pharmacy and Minute Clinic locations.

Today, fewer people smoke than in the mid-20th century, but smokers still make up about 19 percent of the population, and experts said the decline in smoking has plateaued.

The company’s decision has gained lots of support from public health advocates. Robin Koval, president and CEO of Legacy, an organization that conducts research on tobacco use, expressed that it is a landmark decision and one that she hopes will wake up the entire retail industry.

Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the largest U.S. philanthropy devoted to public health, is another advocate.

She said the company’s announcement is, “a huge step toward our country being able to have a really long-lasting culture of health.”

This is just one of the pieces in our country’s health problems we are starting to solve.