With the age of 50 near the horizon, I look back on my life and take note that not once was I told that smoking was good for me. I remember my father struggling to quit smoking, the slides of black lungs the nurses brought to our school classrooms to show us the dangers of smoking and the “bad kids” who would smoke on outside of the corner grocery store who no doubt sold the gang the cancer sticks. In my lifetime I saw the disappearance of cigarette TV commercials, magazine ads and billboards and the reverse rise of anti-smoking TV commercials, magazine ads and billboards. I’ve seen tobacco companies defend for years on how smoking was not harmful to our health only to become the biggest spenders of anti-smoking advertising. (The new 2014 “TRUTH” anti-smoking campaign is paid through fees charged by the FDA under a 2009 law that gave the agency authority over the tobacco industry.)
David Millar, David McLean and Eric Lawson, all “Marlboro Man” actors, have died due to cigarettes, and in a sense, their employer. Miller died of emphysema in 1987, McLean died of lung cancer in 1995 and just last Thursday, January 30, 2014 Lawson died from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
In August of 1996, Target department stores made headlines announcing that the chain would no longer sell tobacco products in their stores. Today, CVS/Pharmacy has announced that more than of its 7,600 stores will be doing the same by October 1st of this year. This is a move to be truly praised and if I had a CVS store in my area, I would begin to show my solidary to the chain by not shopping at the other drug stores.
In almost 50 years of my life, I never understood how pharmacies, stores that are meant to be a symbol of health, would sell cigarettes and tobacco products to begin with. Yes, the easy answer is, “for money,” but it seems to me that if just one of them had done so, they could have made a larger statement about how they are “all about health.” Many stores currently sell their products to help those to stop smoking right beside the things that are making them sick in the first place. Having a drug store selling cigarettes is like seeing your doctor on a smoke break. The two just doesn’t make sense. Any child of the ‘70’s knew this then and any child today knows this now.
Yes, we live in America and we all have a right to smoke if we want to blah, blah, blah. While I do not believe that we should outlaw smoking, I don’t believe that a facility that stands for health should offer unhealthy wares. Just because we “can” doesn’t mean that we “should.” I think that businesses that place their profits as a higher priority than moralities are wrong.
I applaud CVS and today’s statement: “The sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose – helping people on their path to better health. 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 through our 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners. By removing tobacco products from our retail shelves, we will better serve our patients, clients and health care providers while positioning CVS Caremark for future growth as a health care company. Cigarettes and tobacco products have no place in a setting where health care is delivered. This is the right thing to do.”
Meanwhile, Walgreens, who have been “Innovating For More Than 100 Years At The Corner of Happy & Healthy” are claiming to “continue to evaluate” the selling of cigarettes. No word from Rite Aid who believe in “wellness empowerment.”