Quick Takes – Discontinued Tobacco Sales at CVS

Quick Takes - Discontinued Tobacco Sales at CVS

On Feb 5., 2014, CVS Caremark announced its decision to discontinue sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products at its 7,600 CVS Pharmacy locations, effective October 2014.

CVS Pharmacy Initiative May Influence Competitors to Adopt Similar Policies

Cigarettes, ubiquitous and dangerously addicting, may no longer be found at CVS pharmacies. As a pharmaceutical health care provider and America’s second largest drugstore chain, CVS’s bold decision to cease selling tobacco products could potentially spark fire on progressing efforts to reduce tobacco use.

Hoping for a chain reaction of other drugstores and pharmacies following suit may seem naive. However, it is not impossible; these businesses are also providing medications that combat nicotine addiction and diseases exacerbated by smoking. It is ironic and more so contradictory to be providing cessation aids alongside the instigators of such health adversities. If other drugstores decide to follow CVS, regardless of their reason, it will be a great step toward curbing tobacco use.

According to Sheelah A. Feinberg, executive director of the NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City, reducing access to tobacco products will aid in the prevention and reduction of youth smoking. Chronic tobacco use begins when youth start smoking, so it is important to tackle the problem at its roots. It may be difficult to dissuade someone who has already made smoking a part of their daily routine, but it is easier to prevent those who haven’t. If other drugstores and pharmacies decide to stop providing these packs of disease, then there is hope for improvement.

CVS will inevitably encounter criticism by tobacco advocates, as it is the first among major drugstores to decide on discontinuing tobacco sales. However, for those that accent the healthcare aspect of their business, following in the footsteps of CVS might not be such an unsavory idea.

Shannon Kang
Staff Writer

CVS’s Tobacco-Free Policy Will Have Little Effect on Overall Health

Earlier this month, President Obama and media outlets showered CVS with praise, celebrating their efforts to promote overall good health. However, CVS’s dramatic move of pulling cigarettes off their shelves serves only as a publicity stunt, rebranding their name but doing little to improve the overall health of Americans.

Because CVS is the only retailer to announce removing tobacco products from their stores, there are still plenty of alternative places for former CVS customers to get their fix. Euromonitor International reported 47.5 percent of the 290 billion cigarette sticks sold in the United States were purchased from gas stations, while only 3.6 percent of cigarette sales came from pharmacies in 2012. Removing tobacco from CVS does not even register a dent on the amount of tobacco sold nationally, making the relative impact of this sales decision minimal.

The company, according to USA Today, is betting on a transformation from retailer to a doctor’s office alternative. In a public statement, CVS Caremark CEO Larry J. Merlo said that ending tobacco sales was the “right thing to do for our customers.” However, the decision seems to be centered on promoting their image and rebranding the company into a cheaper and effective alternative to regular healthcare. As such, their claims to change overall health in the United States are just a cover for self-promotion.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 42.1 million people smoke cigarettes in the United States. Obama called their sales decision lifesaving, but CVS is simply riding the wave of national attention to promote their MinuteClinic and walk-in flu shots.

Alia Bales
Staff Writer

Tobacco Ban Should Be Supplemented With Educational Campaigns

While CVS’s efforts to curb cigarette sales are a sign of progress, there are more efficient methods to reduce and prevent tobacco use. In order to truly make an impact, policy changes at the pharmacy level must be supplemented by health reforms and educational campaigns.

If CVS desires real change, it’s important that the focus lies not only in curbing tobacco sales at certain pharmacies but also in leading educational campaigns that will deter tobacco use on a larger scale. There has been some progress on this front — according to USA Today, the federal government recently launched a $115 million anti-smoking “Real Cost Campaign” directed at youth from ages 12 to 17. This campaign seeks to educate at-risk teenagers through television, radio, print and online ads that reveal facts and costs for health conditions caused by smoking cigarettes.

Halting sales of tobacco at some retailers may limit its availability, but it will not educate people on the drug’s effects, explicitly discourage its use or cause a significant drop in the number of people that purchase it. On the other hand, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that tobacco usage has decreased by over 20 percent since 1965. This shrinking statistic can be largely accredited to media and government initiatives, which have raised awareness about the perils of smoking. Smoking reduction campaigns since the 1960s are proven to be effective and have led to better health for the American population.

If drugstores and health providers genuinely want to help consumers’ well-being, they need to help advocate lifestyle changes, rather than simply eliminate the product from their stores.

Hugo Wong
Contributing Writer

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