The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editorials

February 17, 2014

Stance of CVS worth imitating

Why it matters: The U.S. surgeon general estimates the nation spends $132 billion annually on treating smoking-related diseases.

Lots of products are sold in today’s drugstores that may not be considered very healthy, including junk food and sugar-packed soda, but CVS Caremark’s recent announcement that it will drop the sale of tobacco makes loads of sense for a business looking to work more closely with health providers.

The pharmacy chain captured lots of attention for its first-of-a-kind announcement that the chain would stop selling tobacco by Oct. 1 in its 7,600 locations. The move even received praise from President Obama for setting a powerful example.

Although CVS officials said the move will cost the company $2 billion a year in lost sales, the action isn’t likely just tied to trying to do what’s right. The drugstore chain is hoping that ultimately this will be a good business decision as health care evolves under the Affordable Care Act. There’s nothing wrong with a business making money when it’s tied to getting people healthier rather than selling products that are definitely tied to disease and death.

With 750 MinuteClinics, CVS has the country’s largest chain of pharmacy-based health clinics. CVS Chief Medical Officer Troyen A. Brennan estimates the company has 30 to 40 partnerships with health-care systems across the country and is in talks with a similar number about starting arrangements. As the Washington Post cites, banning cigarettes could make the clinics even more attractive to health-care providers as the new health-care law takes full effect.

There is nothing healthy about tobacco. This is the 50th anniversary year of the U.S. surgeon general’s report that deemed smoking as dangerous. The problem is that 50 years later, tobacco products are still easily accessible and marketed heavily to young people. A recent report from the U.S. surgeon general estimates the nation spends $132 billion a year treating smoking-related diseases. Worldwide a million people every year lose their lives as a consequence of tobacco use, according to the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization.

Selling tobacco at retail outlets that claim to be a health-care related business is a contradiction. Other chains should take note and follow in the footsteps of CVS.

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