The staff of Prevention Partners cheered, emailed, tweeted and pumped our fists along with the rest of the public health and medical world when we heard that CVS/Caremark will stop selling tobacco products from its pharmacies. For all of us working hard to improve the health of our communities, this is a huge victory, a game-changer.
Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable disease and early death in the United States, with nearly half a million deaths a year. But to imagine that a leading national pharmacy chain would voluntarily ban lucrative tobacco products? Amazing.
In 2010, Prevention Partners convened all schools of pharmacy in the state, the North Carolina pharmacy board and local pharmacy representatives to consider exactly this scenario: a statewide resolution against selling tobacco products in a pharmacy. That same year, the American Pharmacy Association issued a resolution encouraging such a voluntary ban nationally.
CVS CEO Larry Merlo has pointed to the inherent contradiction in selling tobacco products at the front of the store while pharmacists and in-store clinics work in the back to treat customers’ illnesses. We’ve found a new public health hero. And a new favorite pharmacy. May other retail pharmacy chains quickly follow.
CEO, President, Prevention Partners
Melva Fager Okun
Senior adviser, Prevention Partners