Stepping away from smoking


Smoking can be such an entrenched addiction that some folks won’t give it up until a coroner pries the cigarette from their cold, prematurely dead hands. But voluntarily quitting the habit may get easier, thanks to drugstore chain CVS’ decision to no longer sell tobacco.

The company — the first national pharmacy to announce that tobacco will be ousted from its store shelves, by October — deserves credit for a step that will cost it an estimated $2 billion in sales.

The financial hit could be far less, of course, if shoppers compensate for the loss of cigarettes by buying stop-smoking kits instead.

If other retailers follow the lead of CVS and Target (which stopped selling tobacco products in 1996), it would add much-needed momentum on the anti-smoking front.

CVS, in making its announcement, said selling tobacco products was inconsistent with the chain’s health-care mission.

In a Journal of the American Medical Association article co-authored by CVS’ chief medical officer, it was noted that selling cigarettes in pharmacies sends “the subtle message that it cannot be all that unhealthy if it is available for purchase where medicines are sold.”

Countering that deceptive impression is important. The tragic reality is that smoking is one of the nation’s worst health risks.

There are dozens of good reasons to quit tobacco but, as many smokers can attest, it’s not easy. Kicking the habit requires fortitude, information, supportive family and friends, and sometimes professional assistance.

The latter was not always covered in health insurance policies, including Medicaid. Under federal health-care reforms, however, access to tobacco-cessation programs has been broadened. That should work to reduce society’s medical costs as greater numbers of people stop smoking.

As for another “smoking” related development — the rise of e-cigarettes — it’s too soon to tell where it will lead. These electronic products do not burn tobacco, as cigarettes do. Instead they aerosolize a chemical mix (including nicotine), and users inhale the vapor.

Many authorities want the Food and Drug Administration to regulate e-cigarettes, whose safety is unclear. Some users say the devices have helped them break lifelong smoking habits. (CVS says it will not sell e-cigarettes either.)

For 50 years, the country has been warned explicitly that smoking is dangerous; there is progress though. Fewer young Americans are picking up the habit, more tools are available for quitting and, culture-wise, smoking is less omnipresent in film, TV and real life than it once was.

Tobacco remains an economic factor in North Carolina, though not nearly the linchpin it once was. And we still believe that people have a right to choose to smoke; but as a society, we should not have to pay for that choice — and as businesses and individuals, we have every right to discourage it.

— From the New Bern Sun Journal

 

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