CVS kicking the cigarette habit is the right thing to do

Five years ago, CVS Pharmacy quit selling tobacco in its retail locations.

I appreciate that, because four years ago, I was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. I become sad, then sometimes angry, when I see people, particularly young folks, smoke cigarettes and vape heaven-knows-what into their lungs. What a waste of the gift of health, as well as money.

The two cases really aren’t related. I was never a smoker and haven’t been around second-hand smoke since I was a little kid. But smoking is a risk factor for cancer of all types, including breast cancer. I was fortunate. My mammogram caught my tumor early, when it was the size of a small pea, I had a lumpectomy and radiation, and now I’m taking a follow-up medication. I know many women, and a couple of men, who had far worse cases of breast cancer, and I’ve lost friends to the disease, as well. 

Having a national retailer step up to the plate and say they aren’t selling those addictive products is a huge step forward, in my opinion.  In a recent interview with USA Today, Larry Merlo, the CEO of CVS, said the company had sold about $2 billion in tobacco and related items, and that revenue didn’t get made up right away. 

“But that decision became an important foundational moment and a foundational decision for our company as we were on this journey of becoming more of a health care company,” he said in the interview.

In states where CVS Pharmacy had a market share of 15% or more, there was a direct correlation to the amount of tobacco that was sold in those markets. That translated into almost 100 million fewer packs of cigarettes being sold in states across the country.

“What we found from research was that people who purchased their cigarettes exclusively from CVS Pharmacy were about 38% more likely to stop buying cigarettes altogether,” Merlo said. “We heard that anecdotally from our store teams, our pharmacists and our customers – this phrase, ‘When you quit, I quit.’”

One action by one national pharmacy isn’t going to change the world, but it is a step in the right direction. Thank you, CVS. 

— Melanie Mazur


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