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Feb 19, 2014

CVS to Stop Selling Cigarettes; Will Others Follow?

As CVS vows to eliminate cigarette and tobacco sales over the next year, experts hope other pharmacies will follow their lead to help reduce smoking rates nationwide.

With the recent announcement that CVS will stop selling tobacco products in the next year, experts hope pharmacies will follow their lead to combat cigarette smoking—the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

In a recent paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Troyen A. Brennan, M.D., M.P.H., Chief Medical Officer of CVS Caremark and Steven A. Schroeder, M.D., Director of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at the University of California argue that now is the time to eliminate cigarette sales in pharmacies. The past 50 years of anti-smoking efforts have been extremely effective, reducing smoking rates from 42% in 1965 to 18% today. But progress has stalled in the past decade and 42 million Americans continue to smoke, despite widespread tobacco control efforts.

According to Brennan and Schroeder, the key to eliminating smoking is to make it “taboo” in the American culture. Currently, cigarettes can be found at most stores across the country, which sends the message that smoking is acceptable or even normal. And sales of cigarettes in pharmacies—a safe haven for many of us when we’re sick—is simply a contradiction. We visit pharmacies to fill prescriptions, purchase over-the-counter medications and from time to time seek care in a health clinic. Selling cigarettes and tobacco products in a place that promotes health sends the wrong message to consumers and CVS hopes to pave the way for a healthier future.

Of course, authors acknowledge that eliminating cigarette sales in pharmacies will not lead many smokers to quit. As CVS stops selling cigarettes, smokers will likely go elsewhere to purchase their tobacco products. “But if other retailers follow this lead, tobacco products will be much more difficult to obtain,” writes Brennan and Schroeder. And in combination with policy changes, like New York’s recent ban on smoking in outdoor public spaces, experts hope to “denormalize” tobacco use and reduce smoking rates.

Questions for You to Consider

  • Why does smoking increase risk for heart disease?

  • Smoking causes plaque build up in the arteries, which reduces the flow of blood to the heart and body, increasing blood pressure. Over time, this can put an extreme strain on the heart and other parts of the body.
  • How should I prepare for "quit day?"

  • Getting ready to quit smoking is just as important as the actual "quit day." Here are some steps you can take:

    • Talk to your doctor not only about stop-smoking medications, but also about how quitting smoking may affect other medications you’re taking.
    • Arrange for a support system to help you at home, at work and in your social life.
    • Keep a record of when you smoke and why. This will help you identify triggers to smoking. Once you know your triggers, you can plan how to cope with them without smoking.

    Make quit day a big deal by starting fresh in lots of ways:

    • Throw away all of your cigarettes. Check all of your hiding places to make sure you get rid of every last one.
    • Get rid of your ashtrays.
    • Clean your house and wash your clothes to remove the cigarette smell.
    • Cut down on your caffeine intake starting several days before quit day. Nicotine makes your body metabolize caffeine more quickly. Once you stop smoking, you’ll feel jittery and nervous if you keep drinking the same amount of caffeine.
    • Drink lots of water.
    • Get some exercise. You’ll feel better and it will keep your mind off smoking.

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