The Times West Virginian

February 16, 2014

Many applaud ‘bold move’ on tobacco by CVS

Times West Virginian

— Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And it’s a big number: One out of every five deaths in this country can be attributed smoking each year, or about 480,000 people. And that’s all-inclusive, from lung cancer to sudden infant death syndrome, which can be tied to smoking during pregnancy.

But it’s a powerful industry to fight. The $35 billion tobacco industry in the United States spends an awful lot of money on marketing and lobbyists, which makes it even more powerful. So how do you fight it?

Put your foot down. If you’re a consumer, don’t use it anymore. If you’re a retailer, don’t sell it anymore.

Earlier this month, CVS Caremark, the nation’s second-largest drugstore chain, said it will phase out cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco by Oct. 1.

“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,” 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.”

The move will cost CVS about $2 billion in annual revenue, the company says, and it was met with a positive response from everyone from public health officials all the way to the White House.

“We commend CVS for putting public health ahead of their bottom line and recognizing the need for pharmacies to focus on supporting health and wellness instead of contributing to disease and death caused by tobacco use,” the American Medical Association said.

Even the president applauded the decision.

“As one of the largest retailers and pharmacies in America, CVS Caremark sets a powerful example, and (the) 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,” he said in a statement.

So, bottom line be damned. Take that, Big Tobacco.

So what is this? A firm stance? A marketing move? A ploy?

We wondered what our readers had to say on the issue. And you know us, when we wonder about something, we ask. And we ask it each week at in our interactive poll question. Last week, we asked “CVS drugstore has decided to stop selling tobacco products, despite profit loss, as a stand against their use. What do you think?”

And here’s what you had to say:

• It’s a marketing move and doubt it will last long — 10.83 percent

• It makes me want to shop there because I hold the same values — 19.17 percent

• Are they going to stop selling candy and alcohol, too? — 28.33 percent

 • It’s a bold move, and I hope other stores follow.  41.67 percent

 Bold move, indeed.

This week, let’s talk about West Virginia’s minimum wage. Last week, the House passed a near-unanimous bill that would increase the wage by $1.50 over the course of two years. What do you think about the move?

Log on. Vote. Email me or respond online.

Misty Poe

Managing Editor