CVS — If You’re Really Serious About Health….

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Have you heard? CVS is going healthy. The drug store chain announced that beginning on Oct. 1st they will no longer sell any tobacco products in their 7,600 stores nationwide. “CVS is Quitting the Habit! CVS is giving up smoking!” screams all the headlines in the papers and on the internet. No more cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, no pipes, no pipe cleaners, not even e-cigarettes, which contain no tobacco. The idea is, CVS is promoting themselves as a health care center, not just a drugstore.

In a press release CVS Caremark announced recently that it will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in support of the health and well-being of its patients and 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,” said Larry J. Merlo, President and CEO, CVS Caremark. “Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”

Merlo continued, “As the delivery of health care evolves with an emphasis on better health outcomes, reducing chronic disease and controlling costs, CVS Caremark is playing an expanded role in providing care through our pharmacists and nurse practitioners. The significant action we’re taking today by removing tobacco products from our retail shelves further distinguishes us in how we are serving our patients, clients, and health care providers and better positions us for continued growth in the evolving health care marketplace.”

The press release goes on to say that smoking is the leading cause of premature disease and death in the United States and CVS intends to lead the way in reducing the availability of cigarettes. “CVS Caremark is continually looking for ways to promote health and reduce the burden of disease,” said CVS Caremark Chief Medical Officer Troyen A. Brennan, M.D., M.P.H. “Stopping the sale of cigarettes and tobacco will make a significant difference in reducing the chronic illnesses associated with tobacco use.”

“As a leader of the health care community focused on improving health outcomes, we are pledging to help millions of Americans quit smoking,” said Merlo. “In addition to removing cigarettes and tobacco products for sale, we will undertake a robust national smoking cessation program.” The program, to be launched this spring, is expected to include information and treatment on smoking cessation at CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic along with online resources.

The program will be available broadly across all CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic locations and will offer additional comprehensive programs for CVS Caremark pharmacy benefit management plan members to help them to quit smoking.

“Every day, all across the country, customers and patients place their trust in our 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners to serve their health care needs,” commented Helena B. Foulkes, President, CVS/pharmacy. “Removing tobacco products from our stores is an important step in helping Americans to quit smoking and get healthy.”

That’s all fine but if CVS is sincerely concerned with the health of Americans, then I’d like to know when they plan to stop selling liquor, sugary soft drinks, candy and junk food snacks like Doritos, potato chips, and all the rest of the garbage that consumes such large areas in their stores. Walk into any CVS store. The first thing you’ll see is the huge counter of candy extending across and below the entire width of the line of cash registers on an entire side of the building. And that’s before you really get into the store. Aisles upon aisles of candy, soda pop, and other junk foods jump out at you all through the store.

Nobody is saying that tobacco is a good thing, of course cigarettes can be harmful, but I would argue that booze has had a greater role in American deaths and violent crimes than tobacco ever has. How many highway fatalities can be attributed to smoking as compared with drinking? Which, when taken in excess, can lead to domestic violence, pipe smoking or drinking? More importantly, if CVS’s motives are really altruistic, if their main concern is purely for the health of the people, how can they possibly justify selling liquor?

The profits from soda pop, candy, and junk food products that CVS sells must add up well into the billions. How healthy are those items? The point is, if you’re going to position yourself as a “health care center” then do it. But do it all the way. Put your stores where your PR rhetoric is. Take out ALL the bad unhealthy stuff in your stores and go ahead and move right into the health care industry. If you don’t, then you’re just another big company that is playing into people’s gullibility for your own self interests, which would be nothing but profits.

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