CVS bans cigarette sales. Who’s next?

Kudos to CVS/Pharmacy for joining the fight against smoking.

Earlier this week the retail giant announced that it would “stop selling cigarettes and all tobacco products at its more than 7,600 stores nationwide by October 1, 2014.” The decision comes as CVS/Pharmacy moves towards expanding its miniclinics and providing more health care advice from its pharmacists and nurse practitioners. For CVS, selling tobacco and being a health care company cannot go hand in hand.

Though we should applaud the move, we should also not forget, as one appropriately cynical voice on a tobacco control list serve pointed out, that we are cheering such progress 50 years after the 1964 Surgeon General’s report on the ill health effects of smoking.

Smoking rates among adults and high school students are in decline in the United States, and there is reason to be hopeful that moves like CVS’ can help push that decline further.

Yet despite the obvious benefits of CVS’s move—showing leadership in the fight against smoking and making it one less place selling tobacco products—it is only a minor blow to big tobacco. Even as smoking rates are on the decline here and in other western nations, tobacco use remains steady and may actually be growing in the rest of the world. It is estimated that tobacco will kill nearly one billion people worldwide during the 21st century. That’s 10 times the number it killed in the 20th century. 

So, yes, let ’s celebrate CVS’s move this week, but let's remember that there is still much to do in the war against smoking.

Walgreens, are you next to join the fight?

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