CVS Needs to Stop Stealing Our Thunder

By ACSH Staff — Sep 05, 2015
One year ago CVS decided to stop selling cigarettes at all their stores nationwide. Now they are patting themselves on the back because smoking is down in the past year. Not so fast, groups like ACSH deserve the credit for the plummeting smoking rates.
Credit: Mike Mozart via flickr Credit: Mike Mozart via flickr

Our readers and supporters know that when it comes to promoting smoking cessation, the American Council on Science and Health is second to none.

We have been engaged in a war on cigarettes ever since Dr. Elizabeth Whelan co-founded the organization almost 40 years ago. Our commitment to helping smokers quit, like through our Facebook page "Helping Addicted Smokers", is well documented. Whatever the mechanism - nicotine replacement, pharmaceuticals, harm reduction, etc. - we make sure smokers are getting the right information and resources to help them quit.

So when the CDC announced that in 2014, the number of adult smokers fell again, we here at ACSH celebrated our success. Back when Dr. Whelan started this organization, about one third of American adults were smokers but now that number is just 15 percent of US adults. In not even 40 years of existence, we have cut the smoking rate in half, imagine what we can do in another 40?

But now some johnny-come-lately is trying to steal our thunder.

CVS is claiming credit for the fact that 95 million fewer packs of cigarettes were purchased nationwide in the last yea. All of a sudden CVS, who had been profiting an estimated $2 billion a year from the sale of tobacco products, thinks they are the white knight of smoking cessation.

Well, we thank them for doing the right thing, but it makes no sense. No one quit because they couldn't buy cigarettes at one store. It is too easy to go somewhere else.

The people who do deserve credit are the advocates and the educators who have been speaking out for decades about the dangers of smoking. The 95 million fewer packs sold is due more to our advocacy work than to one company finally realizing it was hypocritical to be selling both emphysema medication and cigarettes.

CVS is instead like a long relief pitcher in baseball that comes in to record the last few outs when the team is up by 15 runs: their work is noted on a stat sheet but others before them deserve the real credit for the win.