CVS’s anti-smoking gambit

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How things have changed. There was a time when even doctors pushed tobacco smoking! Source

Drugstore giant CVS recently shocked the world by announcing they would stop selling tobacco products by october 1st of this year. It’s an understatement to say that this has made big news, and is being treated by some as a watershed moment in the history of tobacco smoking, possibly helping to drive this health-destroying habit further underground. This decision may result in other drugstores following CVS’s lead.

It is estimated that this move will cost CVS $2 billion a year in lost sales. Call me crazy, but it makes no sense for a company to do something that will hurt its bottom line. Unless of course this allows CVS to capitalize in other areas.

According to Sarah Cliff at the Washington Post:

Executives said the move will cost the company $2 billion a year in lost sales. But they are gambling that abandoning smokers will help them strike more profitable deals with hospitals and health insurers — and appeal to growing ranks of customers newly insured under the Affordable Care Act.

This does make sense in a way, but wouldn’t it have been possible for them to have made these deals while still selling cigarettes? Or do they expect that the public will see a big halo around CVS, because they don’t sell tobacco products? Whatever the reasons, this is definitely a good thing.

It remains to be seen how this will play itself out, but I doubt it will help inspire a lot of people kick the habit. If smokers can’t buy cigarettes at CVS, they will just buy them elsewhere.

Regardless, this is a landmark event in the decline of smoking in the U.S, similar to the ban on tobacco ads on TV in 1971. The smoking rate has fallen from over 50% in the mid 20th century, to 18.1% among adults in the U.S. There are similar trends in most of the developed world. On top of this, smoking bans are in effect in so many cities across the U.S, that it is getting harder and harder for smokers to find a public place to light up. Increasingly, even some parks and college campuses are banning it. As a health-nut, I fully support this.

Whatever the ultimate reasons, let’s congratulate CVS for this bold move. Let’s hope it serves as a catalyst to help drive smoking further underground. Even if it is not a catalyst, this is a powerful signal for where society is heading. Some optimists are even predicting a U.S smoking rate in the single digits within a few decades.

If you need help quitting smoking, visit the American Lung Association “How to Quit Smoking” page.

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