Earlier this year, CVS/Caremark announced its decision to stop selling tobacco products in its retail pharmacies. With this decision, CVS confronted a longstanding conflict in which many pharmacies offer cigarettes for sale only a few feet from where a customer fills a prescription for an asthma inhaler. CVS deserves our praise. This is a major step forward in our efforts to combat the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the US. As encouraged as I am by the CVS actions, however, I hope this is not the end of the story. Now is the time for other retail pharmacies to follow suit and discontinue the sale of tobacco products.
As CEO and Director of Huntsman Cancer Institute, I witness the cancer challenge every day. Cancer is a complex and difficult-to-treat disease; in Utah alone, an estimated 11,000 individuals will receive a cancer diagnosis this year. Our physicians and scientists, both on the University of Utah campus and through our statewide alliance with Intermountain Healthcare, the Huntsman-Intermountain Cancer Care Program, work very hard to bring an end to this scourge.
Yet, these efforts to eradicate cancer can do only so much in the face of the risk that tobacco use poses. Tobacco use is implicated in many cancers – lung, esophageal, stomach, liver, pancreatic, and colon, to name just a few. Smoking contributes to the vast majority of lung cancer deaths.