CVS Caremark, the national pharmacy chain, announced that it will eliminate sales of tobacco products over the next year. The announcement was met with approval by Drs Schroeder and Brennan (from CVS Caremark and the University of California, San Francisco, respectively) in an editorial in JAMA.
These authors noted “Studies have demonstrated a relationship between tobacco use and geographic density of stores that sell cigarettes. More important, reducing the density of tobacco outlets probably reduces smoking among young people — a key intervention, given the number of smokers who start before 21 years of age.”
While we certainly approve making access to cigarettes and other smokes more difficult — especially for teens, we are somewhat concerned about precisely how “tobacco products” will be defined. Will the sale of dissolvable tobacco products and electronic cigarettes also be verboten? We hope not, since current smokers can actually use such products to help them quit.
ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross is concerned: “I do not believe that CVS’s removal of tobacco products will have anything other than symbolic value in the fight against smoking. A well-respected financial analyst had this opinion: ‘Bottom line – we do not believe cigarette manufacturers will be impacted by CVS’s announcement since we believe its volume will be displaced to c-stores,’ where c-stores are convenience stores. Obviously, addicted smokers will not be put off by this move, there are so many easily accessible locations to buy smokes. However, if CVS is also ridding their stores of e-cigarettes and other non-combustibles, which have very low health risk and do help smokers quit, that might in fact have a net negative effect on public health. Such a move would be akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I hope CVS and those who follow in their path will give more thought to what they hope to accomplish rather than just treating all nicotine-delivery products the same as toxic, deadly cigarettes.”