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A Healthy Decision

Harold E. Cohen, RPh
Editor-in-Chief



3/19/2014

US Pharm. 2014;39(3):1.

Last month, CVS Caremark announced it would snuff out its business practice of selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in all of its more than 7,600 CVS/pharmacy stores nationwide. After October of this year, smokers will have to go someplace other than a CVS store to purchase their cigarettes and other tobacco products. And while the vast majority of healthcare professionals would probably concur with this decision, there are a still some pharmacists who say the purchasing choice should be in the hands of the patient, not the pharmacy.

We posted the question of whether or not pharmacies should sell cigarettes on the popular pharmacy social website PharmQD (www.pharmqd.com). Although the majority of responders agreed that cigarettes should not be sold in a retail pharmacy that is attempting to promote good health, at least one person suggested that a double standard exists in some stores. “Cigarettes aren’t the only unhealthy [item] being sold within your walls,” said one. We asked the same question in an informal poll on the U.S. Pharmacist website ( www.uspharmacist.com). An overwhelming majority of pharmacists (84%) said that cigarettes are a known health hazard and it is inappropriate to sell them in retail pharmacies. Another 11% responded that it was up to customers to make decisions about their own health, and a few (5%) said they really didn’t care either way.

The statistics provided by the CDC against using tobacco products are staggering and could fill volumes. These are some of the key data published by the CDC: Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases (including emphysema, bronchitis, and COPD), and diabetes. More than 16 million Americans suffer from a disease caused by smoking (resulting in nearly a half million deaths), and tobacco use causes more than 5 million deaths per year worldwide. Moreover, these deaths are projected to increase to 8 million in 2030. On average, smokers die 10 years earlier than nonsmokers and cost more than $289 billion a year in medical expenses and lost productivity. Probably most disturbing to me is that despite laws regulating the age at which one can purchase tobacco products (18 years or above in the U.S.), 5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 years are projected to die prematurely from smoking-related illness. That represents about 1 in every 13 U.S. youth aged 17 years or younger who are alive today.

While the overwhelming facts against selling tobacco products are irrefutable, the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products continues seemingly unabated in independent and other chain pharmacies across this nation. Aside from the dire health consequences of smoking and using other tobacco products, I believe that the image of pharmacists who work in stores still selling these potentially lethal products becomes tainted. Pharmacists, who are highly trained in pharmaceutics and dedicated to making and keeping patients healthy, should not be associated with purveyors of such products, especially when deaths from smoking and other tobacco products are largely preventable.

CVS pharmacists should be pleased with their company’s actions; I applaud CVS for its healthy decision in eliminating tobacco products from its merchandising mix, and I hope other retail establishments, especially pharmacies, will soon follow this lead.

To comment on this article, contact editor@uspharmacist.com.

 

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