Dems press other drug stores to pull cigarettes

Eight Democratic senators are urging leaders of the nation's drug stores to pull cigarettes and other tobacco products from their shelves.

In a letter sent Monday to Walgreen Co., Rite Aid Corp. and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the senators said the industry should follow CVS Caremark's lead and refuse to carry tobacco products.

“We write to urge [you], as a company committed to the health and wellness of its customers, to follow CVS Caremark’s plan to stop selling tobacco products and promote cessation efforts in all stores,” the senators wrote. “We recognize the legality of selling and profiting from tobacco products, however we also believe that you are in a position to have a major positive impact on public health.”

“By reducing the availability of cigarettes and other tobacco products and increasing access to tobacco cessation products, [you have] the power to further foster the health and wellness of [your] customers and send a critical message to all Americans — and especially children — about the dangers of tobacco use.”

The letter, spearheaded by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), is part of a renewed effort by the federal government to highlight the negative health impacts of smoking.

In January, the surgeon general released a report detailing new health consequences related to smoking to mark the 50th anniversary of its landmark report tying smoking to lung cancer.

The surgeon general also proposed new “end game” strategies aimed at the 42 million adult and 3 million young adult smokers in the U.S., such as hard-hitting media campaigns, tobacco excise taxes high enough to deter young smokers, and easy-to-access cessation treatment.

"CVS Caremark’s bold and admirable decision will complement federal efforts to save lives and reduce healthcare 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," the senators said.

The letter from Democrats was sent to Walgreen CEO Gregory Wasson, Rite Aid CEO John Standley and National Association of Chain Drug Stores President Steven Anderson.

In addition to Harkin, Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) signed the letter.