Published reports said Tuesday that CVS is withdrawing its membership from the national business lobbying group in the wake of a New York Times article last week that spotlighted the chamber’s efforts against anti-smoking regulation overseas. The day after the Times report, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said in a blog post that the article was misleading and that the chamber is not promoting tobacco use, which it called a health hazard.
“We were surprised to read recent press reports concerning the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s position on tobacco products outside the United States,” CVS said late Tuesday in an emailed statement. “CVS Health’s purpose is to help people on their path to better health, and we fundamentally believe tobacco use is in direct conflict with this purpose. We believe the chamber has advocated for many important causes over the years, and we thank them for their leadership on these issues. Given the leadership position we took last year in removing tobacco products from our stores, however, we have decided to withdraw our membership in the chamber.”
Last September, CVS pulled tobacco products from all of its now more than 7,800 CVS/pharmacy stores, saying these items conflict with the company’s focus on helping people to improve their health. The move made CVS the first national pharmacy chain to drop tobacco products. The company, which unveiled the plan in February 2014 and was widely hailed for the move, also has launched a major smoking cessation campaign.
“CVS Health is proud of its decision to be the first and only national pharmacy that does not sell tobacco products. It was the right thing to do for the health and well-being of our customers,” the company said in the statement released Tuesday.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a strong supporter of CVS’ stance on tobacco use, applauded the drug chain for its decision to quit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“Demonstrating true corporate leadership, today CVS Health announced it is resigning from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce because of the chamber’s activities supporting the tobacco industry in the United States and across the globe,” Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement late Tuesday. “When the leaders of CVS Health decided last year to stop selling tobacco products, CEO Larry Merlo explained it well. ‘Put simply,’ he said, ‘the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.'”
Myers added, “The company’s decision today to resign from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is courageous and follows the same principle. CVS Health officials told the New York Times that the company’s purpose is to help people lead healthier lives, and that the company’s leaders recognize that tobacco use conflicts with this mission.”