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April 14, 2014 7:54 AM Which Pharmacy Chain is Truly Anti-Smoking?

By Keith Humphreys

CVS Pharmacies recently took the remarkable step of ending its sales of tobacco products nationwide. The remaining US pharmacy chains were recently asked to follow CVS’ lead by a range of public health advocacy groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Cardiology, the American Lung Association, Action on Smoking & Health, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, Legacy, the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network and the Trust for American’s Health.

But one prominent organization refused to sign: The American Cancer Society. Peter M. Bach, M.D., wondered why this was so, and more generally why Walgreens, which continues to sell coffin nails, draws more praise from the American Cancer Society than does CVS. His answer:

the society received donations from the pharmacy chain…the chain fund-raises for the Cancer Society from its customers, through things like keypad donations at checkout counters.

The American Cancer Society points out, and Bach acknowledges, that Walgreens is a leader in providing anti-smoking programs for its employees. But this is a paltry financial commitment to the cause compared to that of CVS, which is forsaking $2 billion in annual sales. As Bach sees it, the American Cancer Society is giving Walgreens cover to not acknowledge its hypocrisy:

at the end of the day a corporate vision “to be the first choice in health and daily living for everyone in America” is incongruous with selling the leading cause of preventable death at your cash registers.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Keith Humphreys is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

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