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Editorial: CVS makes a healthy decision

For anyone to quit smoking tobacco, the key seems to be finding the right self motivation.

That key also seems to come into play when it comes to deciding whether to continue selling tobacco products.

The drugstore chain CVS/Caremark announced last week that it would stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at its 7,600 stores across the nation by Oct. 1. In announcing the decision, the company said that “is simply the right thing to do for the good of our customers and our company.

“The sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose — helping people on their path to better health. ... By removing tobacco products from our retail shelves, we will better serve our patients, clients and health care providers while positioning CVS Caremark for future growth as a health care company.”

It’s a long-range decision, since CVS is leaving an estimated $2 billion in tobacco sales to someone else. But as the Rhode Island-headquartered company maneuvers to strengthen its position in the marketplace, this decision on tobacco helps to create an preferable image in the public consciousness, one that CVS officials hope will stick.

It’s not a coincidence that CVS Caremark Chief Medical Officer Troyen A. Brennan coauthored with Steven A. Schroeder, director of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center, University of California, San Francisco, an online article in a Journal of the American Medical Association Viewpoint addressing the changing role of drug stores, changes that include the sale of tobacco.

That article says, “The paradox of cigarette sales in pharmacies has become even more relevant recently, in large part because of changes in the pharmacy industry. Most pharmacy chains are retooling themselves as an integral part of the health care system. They are offering more counseling by pharmacists, an array of wellness products and outreach to clinicians and health care centers.

“Perhaps more important, pharmacies are moving into the treatment arena, with the advent of retail health clinics. These retail clinics, originally designed to address common acute infections, are gearing up to work with primary care clinicians to assist in treating hypertension, hyperlipidemia and diabetes all conditions exacerbated by smoking.”

The bottom line here is that these pharmacies want to be see as integral parts of the health care system and not just stores where one can fill prescriptions and buy over-the-counter drugs, remedies and health aids.

The real question will be whether other pharmacy chains follow suit. As area residents know, the Greenfield health board has put together regulations prohibiting drug stores/pharmacies from selling tobacco products. Other communities may find they don’t have to take such a step.

But CVS should be applauded for this decision when it comes to combating smoking and the health issues associated with it, no matter the motivation.

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