A courageous decision by CVS

The decision by CVS/Caremark pharmacies to stop selling tobacco products was a courageous one.

CVS operates under the Longs Drugs name in Hawaii.

Yes, it is true that the number of adults who still smoke has dropped to less than one in five, but tobacco sales are not the only thing these folks buy when they walk into a store.

It is the realization that CVS will not only be losing those cigarette sales that makes the stand so courageous, for those peripheral sales are going to disappear too.

But CVS said it has become impossible to reconcile its position as a health care provider with the sale of a product that causes so much illness and death. An Associated Press story on the decision contains the following passage:

“CVS CEO Larry Merlo said the company concluded it could no longer sell cigarettes in a setting where health care also is being delivered. In fact, as CVS has been working to team up with hospital groups and doctor practices to help deliver and monitor patient care, CVS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Troyen A. Brennan said the presence of tobacco in its stores has made for some awkward conversations.

“‘One of the first questions they ask us is, “Well, if you’re going to be part of the health care system, how can you continue to sell tobacco products?”‘ he said. ‘There’s really no good answer to that at all.'”

The story notes that while most independent pharmacies have long eschewed tobacco sales, CVS is the first of the major chains to do so. Analysts noted that CVS’ decision will put pressure on other chains to follow suit. CVS said all sales of tobacco products will cease in their stores by Oct. 1.

CVS’ decision may not make a single smoker quit. But it is heartening to see a big company say it is not worth tarnishing its reputation as a health care provider by making a few dollars from tobacco sales.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.