Pres. Obama applauds decision by CVS to stop selling tobacco products

Smart move?

The Associated Press – by way of ABC News – reports that CVS drugstores across the country will stop carrying tobacco products by October 1 because it wants to look like a more ‘health-friendly’ store (via):

CVS, the nation’s second-largest drugstore chain, is kicking the habit of selling tobacco products as it continues to shift its focus toward being more of a health care provider.

The company said Wednesday that it will phase out cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco by Oct. 1 in its 7,600 stores nationwide, in a move that will help grow its business that works with doctors, hospitals and others to improve customers’ health.

The move is the latest evidence of a big push in the drugstore industry that has been taking place over several years. Major drugstore chains have been adding in-store clinics and expanding their health care offerings. Their pharmacists deliver flu shots and other immunizations, and their clinics now manage chronic illnesses like high blood pressure and diabetes and treat relatively minor problems like sinus infections.

Among other things, they’re preparing for increased health care demand. That’s in part due to an aging U.S. population that will need more care in future years. It’s also the result of the millions of people expected to gain health insurance under the health care overhaul.

As CVS has been working to team up with hospital groups and doctor practices to help deliver and monitor patient care, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Troyen A. Brennan said the presence of tobacco in its stores has made for some awkward conversations.

“One of the first questions they ask us is, ‘Well, if you’re going to be part of the health care system, how can you continue to sell tobacco products?'” he said. “There’s really no good answer to that at all.”


“We’ve come to the conclusion that cigarettes have no place in a setting where health care is being delivered,” said CVS CEO Larry Merlo, who noted that many of the chronic conditions their clinics treat are made worse by smoking.

I call BS on that. Think about any number of other products that CVS sells that is harmful to your health: ice cream, candy, beer, soda, sugar, processed foods, etc.  Will they stop selling them as well?

Of course, the President couldn’t help but weigh in, insinuating like the good narcissist that he is that CVS did it to help … his anti-tobacco initiatives:

The company’s tobacco plan drew praise from President Barack Obama, who said the decision will help his administration’s efforts to reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer, and heart disease, as well as lower health care costs.

Tobacco is responsible for about 480,000 deaths a year in the U.S., according to the Food and Drug Administration, which gained the authority to regulate tobacco products in 2009.

First things first: Ultimately, this was a free-market decision and if CVS wants to move more into the direction of “health care provider”, that is certainly their right.  Secondly, I have never smoked a day in my life, have never even been tempted to, and have had family members die as a direct result of smoking and what it did to their lungs.  It was extraordinarily painful to see. I wish people wouldn’t smoke.  But I also believe in the concept of free will – both for drugstores like CVS and consumers.

That being said, as I hinted above, why stop with tobacco products? If we’re using the number of related deaths a year to determine whether or not a product should be pulled off the shelves, why not food that’s bad for you, that leads to obesity, heart problems, diabetes, etc?  Per the Surgeon General, an estimated 300,000 deaths a year are due to obesity.   And how about the health risks associated with alcohol?

There are approximately 88,000 deaths attributable to excessive alcohol use each year in the United States.1 This makes excessive alcohol use the 3rd leading lifestyle-related cause of death for the nation. Excessive alcohol use is responsible for 2.5 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) annually, or an average of about 30 years of potential life lost for each death. In 2006, there were more than 1.2 million emergency room visits and 2.7 million physician office visits due to excessive drinking.3 The economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in 2006 were estimated at $223.5 billion.

Those are pretty devastating numbers. So why won’t CVS pull alcohol from their shelves as well?

Honestly, I”m just curious why tobacco alone was targeted, considering there are so many other harmful products CVS sells that could lead to poor health and/or even death for their customers.  I mean, if you’re really wanting to be on the cutting edge of bold health care decisions, why not go whole hog?

As I side note, I find it interesting the number of  liberals who have applauded CVS’ move to no longer sell tobacco products, which is just a bit  hypocritical considering their constant emphasis on “choice” and “personal decisions” and “access.”  Of course, the same liberals who have praised CVS over their eventual pulling of tobacco items off the shelves are the same types who scream from the rafters over the idea that a pharmacist would refuse to fill a birth control prescription on religious grounds.

Go figure …

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