Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Welcome News

It’s nice to see a CEO realize that a product is not in keeping with the mission statement of a corporation:

CVS Caremark (CVS:US), the largest provider of prescription drugs in the U.S., plans to stop selling cigarettes and tobacco-related products across the nation by Oct. 1 in an effort to support the health of its patients and customers.

CVS, operator of 7,600 pharmacy stores in the U.S., would be the first national pharmacy chain to take this step, the Woonsocket, Rhode Island-based company said in a statement today. The decision will cut annual revenue (CVS:US) by about $2 billion, equating to 17 cents a share, CVS said.

The move comes as public health officials try to educate about 42 million U.S. adult smokers about the dangers of the habit. Last month, a report from the acting U.S. Surgeon General, Boris Lushniak, criticized the “fraudulent campaigns” by cigarette companies, weaknesses in regulation and a rebound in smoking depicted in Hollywood films. The study, which came half a century after smoking was first linked to lung cancer, cited new evidence that common ailments such diabetes, arthritis and impotence can be linked to tobacco use.

The CVS by me also sells beer, so I suspect that won’t be long for the shelves either.

There is a deep background issue lurking that I suspect CVS may have thought about in coming to this decision: lawsuits. After all, tobacco products are a known carcinogen, and while smoking in general has decreased over the past decades, there has been a recent and alarming rise in teen smoking, as the snippet above suggests.

The tobacco manufacturers have been sued and settled, so it would be a long, hard fight to go back to them and say “Stop it, now!” but a potential avenue for fixing the problem would be to go after the retail and wholesale distributors of the product, whose law firms are, shall we say, less stellar? It’s actually a clever way of enforcing the liability issue without seeming to go after the manufacturers and igniting…see what I did there?...a backlash from the right wing and morons who smoke and feel it’s a god-given right.

One could make the case that the retailers are knowingly selling a dangerous product, despite the numerous warnings and measures taken by stores to enforce that only adults get the product. After all, they don’t sell crack legally, and it would be a first step to having tobacco put on a controlled substances list.