No Smoking Zone

An old George Carlin routine made fun of pharmacies for promoting and selling “DRUGS!” In most cases, of course, drug stores sell helpful medicines. Yet many also sell addictive substances in the form of tobacco products.

That won’t be the case much longer at CVS stores. The company will stop selling tobacco products throughout its stores. The announcement appears in the online version of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The article, co-authored by CVS’s chief medical officer explains:

Although the sale of tobacco products in CVS pharmacies produces more than $1.5 billion in revenues annually, the financial gain is outweighed by the paradox inherent in promoting health while contributing to tobacco-related deaths. As a result, CVS has decided to cease tobacco sales in a phased approach over the next year.

Smokers will probably seek their cigarettes elsewhere, note the authors. Nonetheless, I’ve long thought it hypocritical for businesses that claim to promote health to sell cigarettes at the same time. And if more stores take the same approach, maybe people will get the message that smoking and a healthy lifestyle really don’t go together.

The scientific evidence of tobacco’s ill effects is overwhelming. More than 440,000 tobacco-related deaths happen every year in the United States. That’s about out of every five deaths, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mortality for smokers is about three times that of people who never smoked.

The evidence continues to mount. In December, researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden reported found that smoking literally changes people’s genes. It causes epigenetic changes—alterations in the DNA’s chemical make-up. This methylation is likely linked to smokers’ increased risks for cancer, diabetes, impaired immune system abilities, and lower sperm quality.

Another report released in December found that smoking explains up to three-fourths of the difference in death rates for the Central South states and other parts of the United States. Those states generally have lower taxes on tobacco than other states do. The report appears in Population and Development Review.

And just last month, another study found that a mother’s stress and smoking make it more likely her daughter will eventually become dependent on nicotine. The study appears in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

My own mother puffed on smoke after smoke after smoke while I was growing up. Yet she had jars and jars of vitamins in the house. She was something of a self-styled health food nut, too. And, like most parents, she told us all not to do “DRUGS”—except she wasn’t joking like Carlin was in his routine. She died of cancer almost five years ago.

So, good for CVS. Its stores will still sell “DRUGS.” But at least they won’t be selling cigarettes.

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