Big news in the fight against tobacco: CVS Caremark announced that it will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in its more than 7,600 stores nationwide on Oct. 1, 2014.
Citing smoking as the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S., CVS President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Larry Merlo said the pharmacy chain is taking the step to support the health and wellness of its customers.
"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," Merlo said in a news release. "Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose."
Jean O’Connor, Dr.P.H., director of the Office of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), applauded the company’s decision.
"Every organization that takes steps to reduce exposure to tobacco products is taking important steps to save lives," she said. "When businesses remove tobacco products from view or from sale, they are helping to create healthier places to live and work, and a healthier future for all of Georgia."
CVS operates more than 300 store locations in Georgia. In 2011, about 1.5 million adults and 131,000 children and teens in Georgia reported smoking cigarettes, while about 315,000 adults reported using smokeless tobacco. The habit is the biggest cause of preventable death and disease in Georgia. About 10,000 Georgians die every year from tobacco-related diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and breathing problems. Nationally, the U.S. Surgeon General reports that tobacco-related illnesses kill 480,000 Americans each year.
According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), CVS/Caremark’s decision to boot tobacco from its stores does more than eliminate places to sell tobacco. It removes a powerful marketing tool: colorful wall displays known as the tobacco “power wall,” which try to entice current and would-be smokers to smoke.
O'Connor said removing that marketing tool is especially important for protecting children from becoming new tobacco users.
"Kids are especially vulnerable to tobacco marketing and advertising, and when they see adults buy tobacco in a place that otherwise stands for health, it sends a mixed message," she said.
Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., RWJF’s president and CEO, said CVS’ decision sends a message that pharmacies are not just places for filling prescriptions and selling sundries – they are a key partner for better health in neighborhoods and communities around the U.S.
“At no other U.S. health care setting are tobacco products sold in the same location where patients are diagnosed and treated,” she said. “Pharmacies should no longer be that exception.”
Read CVS’ announcement of the decision here.