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CVS marks new standard of care by eliminating sale of tobacco products

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This morning, drugstore behemoth CVS Caremark announced it will stop selling cigarette products October 1.

The unprecedented, astonishing news is reverberating across business and medical communities, but CVS CEO and president Larry J. Merlo explained that this is the “right thing to do” because “the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”

It is refreshing to hear, but hard to believe that an American company actually is putting people before profits. You see, CVS, the second largest pharmacy chain in the nations, stands to lose as much as $2 billion dollars from tobacco sales in its 7,600 stores nationwide.

Yet, nearly 500,000 people die annually from tobacco-related diseases and die approximately 10 years earlier than non-smokers, according to Centers for Disease Control. Who hasn’t been touched by this disease? Watching friends and family die from COPD, lung cancer, heart disease is gut-wrenching. CVS is to be saluted for taking what is being called a bold move to help save lives.

Organizations whose goal is to eliminate smoking or improve public health, such as the Legacy, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, and of course, Health and Human Services all approve and praise this move. President Obama is thrilled that CVS took this ground-breaking step that is in line with his own bold, risky initiatives to improve American’s health.

CVS is often not regarded favorably as they take over the smaller and familiar neighborhood drugstores. Anyone remember People’s Pharmacy? CVS stores are also not known for customer service, but for the preponderance of CVS-branded products over more familiar, national brands.

Yet, as an ex-Rhode Islander, this writer is keenly proud of the Woonsocket-based company for taking the bravest of moves, that no one saw coming, but that sets a new standard of doing business in ways that demonstrate care and concern for the lives of Americans and future generations.

Walgreens? Eyes are on you.

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