Pharmacies and Tobacco: Selling a Contradiction

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X-ray of lungs filled with cigarette butts.

Even though drugs can make you high, there’s no doubt that talking about them and all of the terrible things that they can do to your health and your life is a bit of a downer. But there is some good news in the world.

First, some background. As you’ve probably noticed while picking up a prescription or getting shampoo, your local CVS and Walgreens have upped their game. They’ve started providing vaccines, physicals, health screenings, and treatment for common illnesses and minor injuries. Talk about an all-in-one-stop shop!

But as they get on the health bandwagon, it’s been increasingly contradictory that they also sell tobacco products. In fact, tobacco sales in pharmacies are rising, even as overall cigarette sales decline.

There is no doubt that tobacco products run counter to the mission of health and wellness that is fundamental to pharmacies.

  • Tobacco-related disease is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States!
  • 90% of lung cancer cases—that’s 9 out of every 10 lung cancer cases—are caused by smoking.
  • Tobacco is also linked to leukemia, cataracts, and pneumonia in people who smoke.

Big Props to CVS!

Most of us wouldn’t part easily with $100, or $1,000, or $10,000 … but $2 billion? That’s a mighty big number, and that’s exactly how much CVS stands to lose from their decision to stop selling cigarettes and tobacco products. Check out their announcement!

By October 1, 2014, more than 7,600 CVS pharmacy stores will remove cigarettes and tobacco products from their shelves. This change means that the tobacco “power wall” will disappear from CVS pharmacies. This colorful display of cigarette packs and cartons is actually a highly effective marketing tactic that entices people—especially children and teens—to start or continue smoking. Just like the candy shelf below … you see it, and you want it, even if it’s not the reason you went into the store in the first place.

States Urge Other Pharmacies To Stop Selling Tobacco

CVS has set a powerful example that we hope other retailers will follow. A group of 28 state attorneys general sent letters to CEOs of Wal-Mart, Rite-Aid, Safeway, Kroger, and Walgreens urging them to follow CVS and end tobacco sales.

More than 3,200 teens in the United States try their first cigarette each day and more than 700 kids under 18 become daily smokers. Encouraging national retailers to end tobacco sales is a great step forward in keeping tobacco products away from teens.

Do you think all pharmacies have a responsibility to remove tobacco products from their stores? Do you think that will help prevent teens from smoking? Tell us in comments.

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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