SAN FRANCISCO: A US pharmacy chain plan to cease the sale of all tobacco products from October in an effort to support the health and wellbeing of the nation.
The announcement, by CVS Caremark came today in parallel with a piece published online this morning in a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
The article highlighted the conflict of interest of selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in the nation’s pharmacies.
SETTING A STANDARDS
CVS Caremark, trading as CVS pharmacies will be the first national pharmacy chain to take the step. The company will pull tobacco products from shelves in over 7600 stores in support of the health and well-being of its patients and customers
CVS president and CEO, Larry J. Merlo said that he thought ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products in their stores was the right thing to do for both customers and the company.
"Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose,” he said.
"The significant action we're taking today by removing tobacco products from our retail shelves further distinguishes us in how we are serving our patients, clients and health care providers and better positions us for continued growth in the evolving health care marketplace,” Merlo added.
The JAMA journal piece was co-authored by CVS’s Chief Medical Officer, Troyen A. Brennan and Steven A. Schroeder, director of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at the University of California, San Francisco. Brennan and Schroeder noted the paradox of cigarette sales in pharmacies had become even more relevant, in large part because of recent changes in the pharmacy industry.
"Most pharmacy chains are retooling themselves as an integral part of the health care system. They are offering more counseling by pharmacists, an array of wellness products and outreach to clinicians and health care centers,” the pair said.
They also noted that pharmacies were moving into the treatment arena with the advent of retail health clinics. These retail clinics are gearing up to work with primary care clinicians to assist in treating conditions that are exacerbated by smoking, such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia and diabetes.
SMOKING AND HEALTH
Smoking is the leading cause of premature disease and death in the United States with more than 480,000 deaths annually.
While the prevalence of cigarette smoking has decreased from approximately 42 percent of adults in 1965 to 18 percent today, the rate of reduction has stalled in the past decade, and more interventions, such as reduced availability of cigarettes are needed.
CVS's decision to stop selling tobacco products is consistent with the positions taken by groups such as the American Medical Association, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and American Pharmacists Association. All these organizations have publicly opposed tobacco sales in retail outlets with pharmacies.
NATIONAL SMOKING CESSATION PROGRAM
According to Merlo, CVS also have plans to undertake what he called a ‘robust national smoking cessation program’ in an effort to help Americans to quit the habit.
Approximately seven in ten smokers say they want to quit and about half attempt to quit each year.
The program, to be launched this Spring will include in-house information about quitting smoking, along with online resources.
The company estimates that it will lose approximately $2 billion in revenues annually by eradicating tobacco product sales. However, the company say they have identified incremental opportunities that are expected to offset the profitability impact.
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