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“Tobacco Just Doesn’t Fit In:” CVS Exec Gives Story Behind the Story

Oct 22, 2014, 4:01 PM, Posted by Catherine Arnst

CVS Ready to Quit sign inside pharmacy store

Along with the start of CVS Health, the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS/pharmacy ends today. By eliminating cigarettes and tobacco products from sale in our stores, we can make a difference in the health of all Americans.”—CVS Health CEO Larry Merlo

On October 20, The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids launched a national campaign calling on America’s retailers to stop selling tobacco products, and a new mobile-friendly website—www.ShopTobaccoFree.org—that has an interactive map that allows consumers to search for the nearest tobacco-free retailers. The website currently features more than 20 retail chains with more than 13,000 separate store locations—chief among them CVS Health.

On September 3, CVS ended sales of tobacco products at all of its 7,700 stores, a month ahead of its previously targeted date of October 1. It is the first, and so far the only, national pharmacy chain to take this step. The company also changed its corporate name to CVS Health in order to reinforce its broader commitment to the health of its customers.

RWJF applauds CVS’s actions wholeheartedly—indeed, we collaborated with CVS on the initial announcement back in February that it would end the sale of tobacco products. So we asked CVS Health executive VP and chief medical officer Troy Brennan MD, to tell us the story behind the story. Just how do you get a publicly traded company to sacrifice some $2 billion in annual sales?

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No More Tobacco Behind the Counter at CVS

Sep 3, 2014, 2:40 PM, Posted by Jeff Meade

CVS Tobacco Stopping Starts Here in Store Sign

You can pick up a prescription. You can get your blood pressure checked. You can buy a bottle of pain reliever, a package of bandages, a tube of toothpaste.

Here's what you can't do at CVS: buy cigarettes or any other tobacco product.

Last February, CVS (now CVS Health) announced its decision to remove all tobacco products from its 7,700 pharmacies nationwide. One month ahead of the deadline the company set for itself, CVS has declared all of its stores free of tobacco products.

Back when CVS made its announcement, RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, praised the pharmacy chain’s decision to go tobacco-free, saying, “In eliminating the sale of tobacco products, CVS recognizes that pharmacies and pharmacists are responsible for far more than filling prescriptions and selling sundries; they have become a key partner for better health in neighborhoods across the nation.”

At the time, some raised questions about the business impact of that decision, Lavizzo-Mourey acknowledged in a related blog post on the professional social networking site LinkedIn. In snuffing out tobacco sales, she noted, CVS stands to lose about $2 million in revenue. That’s a big hit in the short term, but it could also be a smart move in the long run, many analysts say, as the chain seeks to grow its in-store clinic program and partner with traditional health care providers.

Regardless of business considerations, the decision by CVS to stop selling tobacco in its stores is also the right thing to do for the nation’s health, Lavizzo-Mourey noted in her LinkedIn post. “In today’s interconnected world, corporate policies must take into consideration far more than short term revenues—the health and wellness of a company’s employees, customers, and community are also key determinants of the well-being of its business.”

Read coverage of this week’s announcement:

Are E-Cigs a Gateway to Smoking for Teens?

Aug 21, 2014, 3:44 PM, Posted by Sheree Crute

Vaping Electronic Cigarette

As you step through the door of Beyond Vape, you are enveloped in the warm scent of vanilla, tinged with butterscotch. The sleek glass counters and display cases are reminiscent of a high-end cigar shop, but there are no tobacco leaves on hand here. This popular, high-end “vaping” parlor, on one of Williamsburg Brooklyn’s more popular streets, is one of seven the company owns on the East and West Coasts.

Vaping—or inhaling richly flavored, heated vapor through a slender, battery-powered tube—is the latest trend in “smoking,” without actually lighting a traditional cigarette. Cindy Hsu, the store’s manager, explains that some of her customers “vape" without even adding liquid nicotine to the tube’s cylinder. “They prefer to just enjoy the extensive menu of flavors such as mocha mint, kiwi strawberry and pineapple.”

Tasty flavors are one thing, but there’s another popular incentive to vape: the claim that vaping can help you stop smoking. Another neighborhood shop, Brooklyn Vaper, advertises its wares with a video explaining that vaping is a “greener, cheaper alternative to help you quit smoking effortlessly... while vaping in 40 flavors.”

Is that true? Can vaping or pre-packaged e-cigarettes help smokers quit?

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The Smoking Generation

Jan 13, 2014, 11:06 AM, Posted by Jeff Meade

Chuck and Jean Meade Chuck and Jean on their wedding day

When I was a little kid growing up in Norwich, N.Y., I earned candy money by helping out at Saturday night bingo, held in the basement hall of St. Bartholomew Church.

By "helping out," I mean taking orders (and collecting tips) from the little old ladies who were so focused on their bingo cards that they could not leave the table long enough to get themselves a drink or a snack.

Virtually all of those old ladies smoked. A blue-gray haze hung over the room like a dingy veil. I might as well have been chain-smoking Lucky Strikes the whole night.

When those old ladies placed their orders, their vocal chords coarsened by decades of smoking—“Get me a meatball sandwich, will ya, hon?" —they sounded to my impressionable young ears like the tough-guy character actor Broderick Crawford. (The little mustaches, perhaps, completed the illusion.)

People younger than I am probably can't imagine what it was like to live in that world, a world in which smoking was ubiquitous.

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