Twenty-six public health and medical organizations have called on drug stores and other retailers to follow suit with CVS Caremark Corp.'s plan to end the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

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Health groups spotlight pharmacies in call to end tobacco sales

February 27th, 2014

WASHINGTON – Twenty-six public health and medical organizations have called on drug stores and other retailers to follow suit with CVS Caremark Corp.'s plan to end the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

One of the health groups, The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said Wednesday that the organizations have issued an open letter urging retailers to pull these products from their shelves.

In particular, the groups said, retailers with pharmacies should go tobacco-free, given their focus on bettering public health.

In early February, CVS Caremark announced that it will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at its more than 7,600 stores by Oct. 1. CVS said it's the first national drug chain to do so, and the company's move was widely praised, including by President Barack Obama.

CVS estimated that it will lose $2 billion annually in sales from tobacco consumers.

"We applaud the bold decision by CVS Caremark to eliminate the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products in all its stores. We urge other retailers, especially those with pharmacies, to move quickly to end tobacco sales in their stores," the health and medical organizations said in their letter. "CVS Caremark is absolutely right: The sale of tobacco products — the No. 1 cause of preventable death and disease — is fundamentally inconsistent with a commitment to improving health."

Besides the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, groups signing the letter included the American Association for Respiratory Care, American Association for Cancer Research, American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Cardiology, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Lung Association, American Public Health Association, American Society of Clinical Oncology, American Thoracic Society, Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund, CASA Columbia, Legacy
LIVESTRONG, Lung Cancer Alliance, National Consumers League, National Association of City and County Health Officials, National Latino Alliance for Health Equity, National Physicians Alliance, North American Quitline Consortium, Oncology Nursing Society, Partnership for Prevention, Smoking Cessation Leadership Center and Trust for American's Health.

By removing tobacco products from their shelves, retailers will help reduce the availability and marketing of tobacco products and further efforts to curtail tobacco use, especially by children.

"No corporation truly devoted to saving lives — like the nation's pharmacies are — can continue to simultaneously reap billions in profits from products that kill nearly half of the people who use them," the letter stated. "Neither can any corporation committed to the well-being of our nation's children."

A week after CVS announced its plan to cease tobacco sales, a coalition of consumer, labor and public health organizations called on Walgreen Co., the nation's biggest drug chain, to go the same route as its rival.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, Change to Win Retail Initiatives and National Consumers League sent a letter to Walgreens chief executive officer Greg Wasson asking him to end cigarette and tobacco product sales at his company's drug stores.

"We are writing to ask that you, as CEO of Walgreens, consider taking the same bold step by removing tobacco from your shelves and ceasing to advertise tobacco in your stores. Indeed, removing tobacco products from your stores would be consistent with Walgreens’ mission statement to help consumers 'get, stay and live well,' " read the letter, signed by Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League; Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest; and Nell Geiser, associate director of Change to Win Retail Initiatives. "We also believe that Walgreens' interest in becoming a leading provider of an expanding range of health care services, including services targeted at those suffering from tobacco-related diseases, would be served by following CVS' example."

The three groups noted that many professional and public health organizations, including the American Pharmacists Association and American Medical Association, also support bans on tobacco sales in pharmacies. They also reporte that a survey of more than 2,500 pharmacists and pharmacy students found that only 1.6% support selling cigarettes in a pharmacy environment.

"Tobacco's tragic impact on our communities is clear," the letter said. "We urge Walgreens to stop selling tobacco products and set an example for the nation."