By now, most people have heard the breaking news that CVS, one of the biggest pharmaretailers in the United States, has decided to remove cigarettes from all their 7600 locations by October 2014. I have always wondered why these pharmacy or drug store chains have carried this product. And they have been deliberately positioned in such plum locations such as right behind the cashier, where we all have to go to pay. So it’s inevitable that our line of vision would include the backdrop of brands galore. Unless of course, you tend to look down and not at the cashier serving you. Or you’re nearsighted like me. Or you have trained your mind’s eye to tune it out, like me again.
We were raised in a home where smoking is as vile as trash-mouth profanity, as useless as wanton vanity, as unnecessary as malicious gossip. My mother, who helped pioneer a successful food enterprise with her sister, had banned smoking in their food establishment and the food processing areas as early as 1966! Yes, she was and is, a trailblazer. On the surface, she told people she did not want her cakes and food to smell like cigarettes. But really, her science education afforded her the common sense that this practice was just not food safe nor healthy. Not for the customer. Not for the worker having to be in that environment.
Over the last two days, I’ve heard the CEO of CVS interviewed. He’s been quoted saying,
“the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health,”
Indeed! How can an industry associated with health and wellness, that has gone beyond dispensing prescriptions and over-the-counter solutions to maladies like hair loss and the common cold, to offering immunizations, prescription drug advice, and even blood pressure monitoring. be associated with one of the biggest causes of mortality and morbidity anywhere in the civilized world where delivery trucks can reach anyone who would care to light up? Should we applaud this move? Should we pat CVS on the back and tell them how brave, how honorable, how noble this gesture is? And never mind the over $2 Billion dollars in lost revenue they would have to sacrifice as a consequence of this decision?
The “Citizens United” organizations in favor of smoking have spoken too. Yes, they decry the limitations placed on their civil liberties. And they quickly point out that if CVS is to be true to health and wellness promotion, then they should stop selling sugary drinks and junk food. That the vast majority of smokers don’t buy their cigarettes from pharmacies anyway. Most buy them from gasoline stations, they claim.
CVS is a business first and foremost. It would not decide to do something as drastic as this (or offend the tobacco industry!) if it did not see that it would be in its best interest. CVS and other drug store chains, have seen the profits to be had with increasing their role in health care delivery. The traditional mores of where health care should occur, i.e., the doctor’s office, the hospital, the clinics, have changed over the years. We started having nurse practitioners, tele-medicine, and trackers (Fitbit, Withings, etc.) that can transmit your weight, blood pressure, heart rate, etc., to your health care provider, and many other activities have become outsourced. Don’t be surprised if a doctor in India read your chest x-ray while you slept last night. Or that your antidepressant came from Turkey.
The loss of revenue CVS is sacrificing is a minor setback in its long-term growth as a major player in Health Care Delivery. It is a smart move. It will be a profitable move.
As for me, I’m relieved to think that cigarettes will not be ubiquitous in our society one day. Maybe the other large chains will follow suit. Maybe the gas stations will also cave in to pressure one day. Less access in general will be welcome especially for the curious risk-taking youth. This would be a good net effect that CVS pioneers. Next stop, soda and chips maybe?
Bottom line for me? It smells. It lingers. It clings to every pore and every strand, to the walls, the drapes, the furniture. It slowly destroys your airway passages, transforming your lung alveoli into non-functioning sacs of mucus and carbon deposits. It alters your taste buds, your throat linings, your entire GI tract. It accelerates Macular Degeneration of your eyes. And it reduces a person to a nicotine-addicted shriveled shaking shadow of an old self.
I know what smokers out there will say. “It’s my life. It’s my lungs. If I want to die with smoked lungs, smoked gut, smoked brain, so be it. It’s my decision and leave me alone.
Okay. Just don’t be anywhere near me when you light up. I don’t want your second-hand smoke. I may assume you are on fire and take appropriate action.