This story jogged my memory that I think San Francisco did the same thing. Sure enough, San Francisco did ban tobacco sales in pharmacies, in fact some time ago — 2008 — longer ago than I remember.
City councilwoman Marian Tasco submitted the bill on behalf of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.
Nutter is a longtime anti-smoking advocate. He advocated for a state bill allowing Philadelphia to impose a $2 a pack cigarette tax (Wow, the Pennsylvania cigarette tax is $1.60 a tax, so that’s a $3.60 tax on a pack of cigarettes in Philadelphia — cigarettes have to be pretty pricey there.). He also signed a bill banning smoking in parks and as a city councilman, pushed for a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants. (The state of Pennsylvania has a very weak smoking ban that still allows smoking in bars.)
CVS Pharmacies recently banned all tobacco sales at its chain of drug stores nationwide. The chain has reported that the move has not hurt its overall revenues and has urged other drug store chains to do the same. CVS also dropped out of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce because that group has been lobbying around the world to loosen nations’ laws restricting tobacco marketing and packaging.
So, it sounds like Philadelphia is vying with New York City and San Francisco to be one of the most smoking-unfriendly cities in the U.S. San Francisco, which recently banned chewing tobacco at AT&T Park, isn’t particularly friendly to tobacco in general.
Very interesting story. CVS Pharmacies about a year ago announced it would no longer be selling any tobacco products.
It’s just one drug store chain, right? No big deal, right? Well, it turns out that decision resulted in a 1 percent reduction in cigarette sales in 13 states … that’s 95 million packs of cigarettes. That means smokers weren’t just running to other outlets; it actually helped cut the number of cigarettes being sold.
Hey, you see 1 percent, I see 95 million packs of cigarettes. Every little bit helps. 95 million packs is 1 percent. That gives you a clue to the shocking amount of cigarettes still being sold in the U.S.
From a Washington Post article:
Troyen Brennan, chief medical officer for CVS Health, said many people thought that smokers would simply go elsewhere to buy cigarettes once the chain stopped selling them. “What this research shows is that we were right,” he said. By removing a convenient place to buy cigarettes, he said, “we had an overall impact on sales of tobacco products.”
CVS did its own study that showed the pharmacy chain once controlled 15 percent of the drug store tobacco sales market in 13 states. Most of these states were in the Deep South.
From the Post article:
“I think people would be surprised that a single store, even one as large as CVS, could have a direct and measurable effect on tobacco use in the community in which it has a significant presence,” said Matthew Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
A 1 percent drop in sales may not seem like a big number, he said. “But given the number of smokers, it’s an extraordinary impact,” he said. He said the organization will be calling on other major retailers to take similar action.
I’m putting my money, as little as it is, where my mouth lies to the best of my ability. I go out of my way and buy all my allergy and sinus medication at CVS now.
The New Jersey Star-Ledger, a major daily newspaper in Newark, N.J., came out this week with a strong editorial bashing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for promoting U.S. tobacco companies abroad. The Star-Ledger accuses the U.S. Chamber of being a “shill” for Big Tobacco around the world.
The Chamber, which has become an increasingly political group, has written dozens of letters to the governments of other nations, some of these small and poor nations, lobbying against a variety of tobacco regulations. CVS Health, which stopped selling tobacco products in its chain of drugstores recently, dropped out of the U.S. Chamber in protest.
Even Mother Jones joined in on the outrage over the U.S. Chamber’s behaviour.
This is something that has been covered by John Oliver and others. The world tobacco industry is fighting a number of small governments, some of which simply don’t have the resources to duke it out with Big Tobacco, over tobacco regulations regarding marketing, packaging and even smokefree workplace laws. The industry has filed a bunch of lawsuits, butting heads with small countries such as Ireland, Togo, Uruguay and others. The industry got into a full-on legal war with Australia over that country’s cigarette plain-packaging laws. The industry sued and it went all the way to the Australian Supreme Court, which ruled in favour of the government. Not satisfied, Big Tobacco enlisted the help of both Hong Kong and Ukraine to get those entities to claim that Australia was somehow violated trade treaties and laws with its plain packaging law.
Anyway, the Chamber decided to write dozens of letters to these little countries, attempting to pressure them to drop their rules and regulations regarding packaging or tobacco marketing. The Star-Ledger brings up the Ukraine-Australia spat (which Ukraine eventually dropped) and also included a video of the great John Oliver takedown of the tobacco industry on his show.
From the Star-Ledger:
It would be heartening for the Obama Administration to condemn the U.S. Chamber for supporting Big Tobacco, and let the world know that these entities do not speak for the United States. But so far the only righteous stand has come from CVS, which resigned its membership from the USCOC for trafficking in death. Until more corporations send that message, little will change.
Its domestic political influence has waned in recent years. Even when Donohue argues for the right things – such as immigration reform – House Republicans ignore him.
It remains very effective, however, in making money for its corporate partners, even when as wanders into ethical-dead zones under the pretense of “protecting intellectual property.”
But it is time the U.S. Chamber got out of the tobacco business and stopped prioritizing death over profit. And its 100 affiliates worldwide – including the one in New Jersey – should decry its policy of peddling poison.
CVS Health, which gained notoriety in recent months for removing all tobacco products from its chain of drug stores, has now left the U.S. Chamber of Commerce because that organization is embroiled in a lobbying campaign worldwide against anti-smoking laws.
This is a growing issue in the battle against the spread of tobacco worldwide. Something that I didn’t pay that much attention to until John Oliver did an epic 18-minute rant about it on his show earlier this year.
Big Tobacco has in many ways given up fighting anti-smoking laws in the U.S. and much of the West. However, it is taking the fight to the Third World, where smaller countries don’t have the financial resources to hold their own against Big Tobacco. The tobacco is fighting laws against tobacco marketing and packaging in countries ranging from Australia to Uruguay. While Australia kicked Big Tobacco’s butt (pun intended) over the issue of plain packaging of tobacco products, little countries like Uruguay and Togo which are trying to restrict tobacco marketing in their countries simply can’t go up against the tobacco industry’s wealth.
Enter the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has become an increasingly right-wing entity over the past several years. The Chamber and its president Thomas Donohue are also fighting these small countries on behalf of Big Tobacco. Here is a list of some of the letters they have written supporting the tobacco industry to countries such as Ireland, Uruguay and New Zealand.
We were surprised to read recent press reports concerning the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s position on tobacco products outside the United States,” David R. Palombi, a senior vice president at the company, said in a statement. “CVS Health’s purpose is to help people on their path to better health, and we fundamentally believe tobacco use is in direct conflict with this purpose.”
In its defence, the Chamber responded:
“It’s unfortunate that a concerted misinformation campaign about the U.S. Chamber’s position on smoking has resulted in a company leaving our organization.
“To be clear, the chamber does not support smoking and wants people to quit. At the same time, we support protecting the intellectual property and trademarks of all legal products in all industries and oppose singling out certain industries for discriminatory treatment.”
However, if the Chamber is just trying to protect trademarks of tobacco companies, then why is it fighting smoking bans? That’s got nothing to do with trademarks.
According to the New York Times:
The chamber has not said why it has opposed public health steps like restricting smoking in public places, which it called an “extreme” measure when it was proposed in Moldova.
CVS is not the only entity taking the Chamber to task. Others include Sens. Al Franken and Elizabeth Warren, billionaire Richard Branson and the World Health Organization.
From the Times:
Last week, seven Senate Democrats, including Richard Blumenthal, Al Franken and Elizabeth Warren, called the chamber’s tobacco lobbying “craven and unconscionable,” adding that “member companies should be concerned that their good name is sullied in efforts to strike down public health protections worldwide.”
Richard Branson, the billionaire British entrepreneur, said on Twitter that the chamber was on “the wrong side of history.” And on Tuesday, the head of the W.H.O. weighed in, assailing the chamber over its lobbying practices.
“By lobbying against well-established, widely accepted and evidence-based tobacco control public health policies, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce undermines its own credibility on other issues,” Dr. Margaret Chan, the director general of the W.H.O., said in a statement on Tuesday. “So long as tobacco companies continue to be influential members of the chamber, legitimate businesses will be tarred with the same brush.”
Good on you, CVS, for highlighting what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is doing and putting the spotlight on its sleazy lobbying on behalf of the tobacco industry.
Participants in the study were actually recruited by CVS, which apparently is very serious about combating tobacco use. Participants were offered a variety of incentives to quit smoking and one of the conclusions of the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine is that it appears that providing a financial incentive to quit worked much better than expected.
Smokers were given a choice of which program to participate in. One scenario had smokers give a $150 deposit, and they would receive their deposit back, plus a $650 bonus if they quit. The other simply offered an $800 payment if they quit.
Only a small percentage of people agreed to the deposit, but those that did were much more successful than the group vying for the $800 reward. So, the incentive of not wanting to lose money seemed to have more power than winning money you didn’t already have.
“People don’t want to part with their money,” Dr. Scott Halpern, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine who led the study, explained to NBC News. “Among those who would have accepted either program, the deposit-based programs were twice as effective as the rewards-based programs and five times more effective than the standard of care which was provision of free access to behavior modification therapy and nicotine replacement therapy.”
While overall, the financial reward/penalty group had a low rate of success in quitting smoking, it still had a higher success rate than people being offered Nicorette or nicotine patches.
CVS is going to put this idea into practice. The company will offer its employees a $700 bonus if they quit smoking (plus the return of a $50 deposit.).
More companies are providing financial incentives on health coverage for smokers to quit. Also, this someone backs up a point I’ve made for several years — one of the benefits of raising taxes on cigarettes (and one of the quiet benefits of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, which helped raise the cost of cigarettes) is that it does work to encourage smokers to quit. When smokers realize they’re spending $50-$100 or more a week on cigarettes, that’s a real-world incentive to quit.
Apparently, one of the reasons for the increase in revenues was the Affordable Care Act.
From this Forbes article:
CVS, which stopped selling cigarettes and related products in September, previously generated an estimated $2 billion in annual tobacco sales. But sales in the pharmacy segment alone in the fourth quarter jumped 21.7 percent to $24 billion buoyed by an early flu season with an ineffective vaccine that caused flu victims to search CVS for other treatment options. CVS also saw increased paying customers under the Affordable Care Act.
The newly insured Obamacare customers and increased drug sales helped overcome a dip in revenue from the front-end of the store where customers used to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products.
Also from the Forbes article:
The end of tobacco sales has improved the company’s image and helps in discussions attracting employers to its pharmacy networks and its prescription management business. In the fourth quarter, pharmacy benefit management sales were up 21.7 percent to nearly $24 billion.
The CVS decision has also put pressure on other retailers like Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) and Wal-Mart (WMT). “It’s opening up some doors to some unique opportunities,” CVS CWO Larry Merlo told analysts.
As the company announced a few months ago, CVS went ahead this week and pulled all tobacco products off its shelves — and changed its name to CVS Health in conjunction with this move. However, CVS, the second largest drug store company in the U.S., made the decision more quickly than they announced they would. It was supposed to happen in October, but they went ahead and made the change shortly after Labor Day. CVS is expected to lose up to $2 billion a year in retail sales, but this move is also part of a “rebranding” for the chain to become more of a health care provider, rather than a general drug store with film development, candy, office supplies, etc. So, the company is looking to make up for those losses by making more money on health care services, products, etc. This is according to the New York Times
The decision to stop selling cigarettes is a strategic move as pharmacies across the country jockey for a piece of the growing health care industry. Rebranding itself as a company focused on health could prove lucrative for the drugstore as it seeks to appeal to medical partners that can help it bridge the gap between customers and their doctors.
Again, from the New York Times:
CVS has entered partnerships with more than 40 health systems, including local hospitals, to help run its clinics. The company opened 32 clinics last quarter and is on track to open at least 150 more this year, Carolyn Castel, a CVS spokeswoman, said. Revenues at the clinics are up 24 percent in the second quarter, compared with a year earlier, and the company plans to operate 1,500 clinics by 2017, CVS said.
As CVS seeks new health partners, its decision to end cigarette sales may make it more appealing than its tobacco-selling rivals.
“Think of it this way: Would you find cigarette machines or retail stores in the gift shops in a hospital selling cigarettes? Of course not,” said Nancy Copperman, the corporate director of public health initiatives for the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, a minute clinic partner. “I think it does give them a leg up.”
No electronic cigarette sales, either. CVS doesn’t sell electronic cigarettes, but after making its tobacco announcement in February, Merlo said the company was monitoring Food and Drug Administration action on the products. Still, it sounds like CVS won’t lift its current ban on e-cigarettes. “We don’t carry them today, and we don’t have plans to carry them,” Chief Executive Officer Larry Merlo said on Tuesday.
In response to CVS’ recent decision to halt tobacco sales, eight U.S. Senators –Tom Harkin (D-IOWA), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Jack Reed (D-RI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) — wrote two other major chains asking them to follow CVS’ lead.
Harkin, head of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, didn’t stop there. He has also written a letter to WalMart asking that chain to stop selling tobacco products. That letter was also signed by Durbin, Brown, Whitehouse, Rockefeller and Boxer. No word if WalMart is “evaluating” tobacco sales.
An excerpt from the letter to the drug store chains:
CVS Caremark’s historic announcement comes on the heels of the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health, and new revelations in the latest Surgeon General’s report that smoking is even more hazardous and takes an even greater toll on the nation’s health than previously known. Smoking kills 480,000 Americans annually, sickens millions more, and costs the nation more than $289 billion every year. The impact of tobacco on our nation’s children is impossible to ignore – 90 percent of adult smokers began at or before age 18, and 5.6 million kids alive today will die prematurely from smoking-caused disease unless current trends are reversed. These findings highlight the critical need for all sectors of our community to play a role in ending the unnecessary disease and death that results from tobacco use.
CVS Caremark’s bold and admirable decision will complement federal efforts to save lives and reduce health care costs through continued implementation of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, access to smoking cessation therapies with no out-of-pocket expenses under the Affordable Care Act, and the ongoing success of public awareness campaigns like CDC’s “Tips from a Former Smoker” and FDA’s new “The Real Cost” campaign.
In recognition of the 8.6 million Americans who currently suffer from smoking-caused illnesses, we hope you will join this national effort to end the scourge of tobacco use. We look forward to working with you in a joint effort to promote the health of all Americans.
The Mensa crowd at Fox News blew a gasket when CVS Pharmacies announced it would not longer be selling tobacco products. First of all, Fox News tried to blame Barack Obama somehow for a private company’s decision not to sell a poisonous product because Obama had the audacity to (gasp!) express his support for the decision. On three separate occasions, Fox analysts used the CVS decision to attack Obama (Neil Cavuto claimed CVS was becoming “scaredy-cat” because of the ACA … that doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense).
What’s interesting is Fox promotes free market capitalism pretty unabashedly. Well, here you have a company, making a decision of its own free will, to no longer sell a product — what is that? FREE MARKET CAPITALISM.
Even more ludicrous was a comment by Gretchen Carlson asking out loud if it was legal for CVS Pharmacies to not sell tobacco products since they are legal. “Is it OK legally … to restrict tobacco availability in a private store like this?” she asked her guests.
Oh … my … freaking … God. Do they give IQ tests at Fox News? And then if you fail the test, you get the job?
There is no requirement anywhere that forces businesses to sell products they choose not sell? That would impinging on FREE MARKET CAPITALISM. My question to Gretchen. So, using your logic, are you saying that CVS Pharmacies should also be required to sell guns and vibrators? Since, these are both legal products? Just frightening how stupid these arguments become.
Tom Brokaw chimes in
Retired NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw had a — not surprisingly — much more intelligent response. In his op-ed piece, “Bravo, CVS, for banning tobacco products,” Brokaw admits he is a “cigarette scold,” who is not shy about confronting smokers about their habit (Personally, I don’t take it this far, unless smokers start telling me about their Aunt Mabel who smoked and lived to be 92.).
Brokaw says he feels this strongly partly because he counts 11 friends and family members who have been killed by tobacco, and partly because he is aware of the damage smoking does to health care costs.
So I was thrilled to see that CVS — the giant pharmacy chain — announce it was going out of the cigarette business even though it meant a two billion dollar loss in sales. Two billion, with a “b.”
CVS is more and more in the health care business — providing vaccinations, clinics and the like — and selling cigarettes was not just inappropriate, but not good for the growing health care piece of their business plan.
Smokers will say they have a right to make their own decisions. We heard those same arguments about drinking and driving and about resisting seat belts. Think of how many lives and dollars the two changes in driving have saved.
I grew up in the smoking Fifties and couldn’t wait to graduate from high school sports to Lucky Strikes or whatever brand tobacco companies would distribute free to incoming freshmen classes.
So thank you, CVS for putting health, a national security issue, over profit.
You didn’t lose my cigarette business because I haven’t smoked in 45 years. But you did gain my admiration — and I now know where I’ll buy my toothpaste, razors, shampoo, cold tablets, cough drops, sunscreen and vitamin pills.
In the words of Joe Biden … this is a big fucking deal.
CVS Pharmacies, the second biggest drug store chain in the country, will no longer sell any tobacco products in its 7,600 stores across the country. This means CVS will lose $2 billion a year in sales revenues … 1.6 percent of its total revenues every year. That’s a serious decision to just walk away from $2 billion a year retail.
Larry J. Merlo, the president and chief executive officer of CVS Caremark, said “As the delivery of healthcare evolves with an emphasis on better health outcomes, reducing chronic disease and controlling costs, CVS Caremark is playing an expanded role in providing care,” He added. “Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”
Making cigarettes available in pharmacies in essence ‘renormalizes’ the product by sending the subtle message that it cannot be all that unhealthy if it is available for purchase where medicines are sold,” the company’s chief medical officer, Dr. Troyen Brennan, wrote in a new article in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. The article is co-authored by Dr. Steven Schroeder, director of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at UC San Francisco.