Strengthening our commitment to help end tobacco use

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This article was authored by CVS Health Chief Medical Officer Troyen Brennan, M.D., M.P.H., and Eileen Howard Boone, Senior Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility & Philanthropy for CVS Health. 

Five years since exiting tobacco, focus expanding to other challenges

Five years ago, we decided to stop selling cigarettes and tobacco products in all CVS Pharmacy locations. It was the first step toward building an innovative health care company driven by a purpose — helping people on their path to better health. Since then, CVS Health and the CVS Health Foundation announced a multi-year $50 million Be The First initiative to help create the first tobacco-free generation.

On the anniversary of our original decision, we are expanding the program to tackle the growing problem of youth vaping with additional investments and new partners. We’re also bringing our smoking cessation expertise to areas across our businesses, with an expanded focus in 2020 on increasing effective smoking cessation approaches in Medicaid plans, including in Aetna Better Health managed Medicaid plans and together with CVS Caremark clients interested in creating or expanding smoking cession efforts for their Medicaid members.

Demonstrable positive impact on tobacco use

Our decision to exit tobacco led to a meaningful and measurable decline in cigarette smoking. Within 12 months, in states where CVS Pharmacy had at least 15 percent of the market share, consumers had purchased 100 million fewer packs of cigarettes, according to research we published in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) in 2017.https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2016.303612?journalCode=ajph Households that purchased cigarettes exclusively at CVS Pharmacy were 38 percent more likely to stop buying cigarettes, and those consumers who bought more cigarettes (>3 packs a month) were more than twice as likely to stop buying them.1

Within 12 months of ending cigarette and tobacco product sales in all CVS Pharmacy locations: Consumers purchased 100M fewer packs of cigarettes.In states where CVS Pharmacy had at least 15 percent of the market share.

These findings clearly indicate the positive public health impact of our decision. It is also significant because even though cigarette smoking has been on the decline, many consumers still struggle with nicotine use. In a recent CVS Health research study, 39 percent of consumers said they, or a family member or friend, have struggled with nicotine use — such as cigarettes or vaping — in the past five years. Of consumers aged 35–50, nearly half — 45 percent — said they struggle with nicotine use. Forty percent of millennials said they did as well.

Need for greater action on tobacco

Cigarette smoking continues to be responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the U.S.3 The total economic cost of smoking is more than $300 billion a year.https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fast_facts/index.htm Clearly, more needs to be done to help our country quit tobacco. The AJPH recognized our research paper as one of the journal’s winners of the 2017 Paper of the Year, for contributing, “to our knowledge and understanding of a significant public health issue.”https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/10.2105/AJPH.2017.304134

In announcing their decision, the AJPH judges stated the research “added to the population health road map by illustrating that there are many sectors, including private, that have levers to pull to positively influence population health.”

If other stakeholders joined us in exiting tobacco, it could have an even more profound public health impact.

Vaping, an emerging and growing threat

Even as cigarette smoking has been on the decline, use of vaping products — introduced as alternatives to cigarette smoking and often marketed as a “safer” option by manufacturers — has been on the rise. This is concerning because there is increasing evidence that vaping poses serious health risks.https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-vaping/vaping-impacts-blood-vessels-even-without-nicotine-idUSKCN1VA29Thttps://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2019/08/16/mystery-lung-illness-linked-vaping-health-officials-investigating-nearly-possible-cases/?noredirect=on

According to the 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey, 3.6 million middle and high school students were e-cigarette users, a dramatic increase from the more than 1.5 million students the previous year.https://www.fda.gov/tobacco-products/youth-and-tobacco/youth-tobacco-use-results-national-youth-tobacco-survey This represents a 78 percent increase among high school students, and a 48 percent increase among middle school students.

What’s even more disturbing is that the risks of vaping may not be well known or understood. Each day, we are learning more about the potential adverse health effects that may be linked to vaping.https://www.nap.edu/resource/24952/012318ecigaretteConclusionsbyEvidence.pdf Findings from a Morning Consult survey, sponsored by CVS Health, show that nearly eight in 10 Americans consider tobacco to be very harmful to one’s health, while just over half – 52 percent – consider vaping very harmful to one’s health.

Ongoing, expanded focus reducing all tobacco use

As a health care innovation company, and as a reflection of our purpose to help people on their path to better health, we do not sell vaping products at any CVS Pharmacy location. After years of decline in the youth smoking rate, today young adults who use e-cigarettes are four times more likely to begin smoking traditional cigarettes, according to the Truth Initiative.https://truthinitiative.org/research-resources That’s why, we are is expanding our focus to aggressively tackle this growing epidemic with new partnerships and funding.

We are expanding our focus to aggressively tackle the growing epidemic of youth vaping. 

Today, the Aetna Foundation is pledging an additional $2 million to provide educational materials and tools to prevent smoking and vaping to thousands of clinicians who are part of organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Medical Association and the National Association of School Nurses.

This builds on a $10 million commitment announced in June to combat vaping. As part of that effort, the CVS Health Foundation is partnering with Discovery Education and the CATCH Global Foundation, to create an educational curriculum on the dangers of vaping for middle school students that will be made available to every school district in the U.S. These resources will also be made available to parents at no cost. These anti-vaping initiatives build on the accomplishments of the Be The First program to date, including reaching nearly 13 million young people, helping more than 200 colleges and universities in their efforts to go tobacco free, and funding the first-ever vaping cessation program in partnership with the Truth Initiative.

As we look to 2020, we plan to expand our tobacco-cessation expertise, particularly within the Medicaid program where smoking rates are considerably higher than among all adults. More than a quarter (25.3) of all Medicaid enrollees smoke compared to 11.8 percent of people enrolled in private insurance, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6713a3.htm A recent study by University of California San Francisco also found that reducing smoking and its associated health effects among Medicaid recipients in each state by just 1 percent would save the Medicaid program an estimated $2.6 billion within one year.https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2019/04/413921/medicaid-could-save-26-billion-within-year-if-just-1-percent-recipients-quit

Ending tobacco sales and addressing the e-cigarette epidemic are just the beginning of our broader effort to transform the delivery of health care, one individual and one community at a time. By proactively addressing consumer health needs, we are building a transformative health care company that will engage consumers when and where they need care, help people achieve better health at a lower cost and help simplify a complicated health care system.

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By the Numbers: Perceptions on Tobacco Use and Sales

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Five years ago, CVS Health quit selling all tobacco products and made a commitment to help people lead tobacco-free lives. We are proud that we took this step in support of the health and well-being of our customers and the 10,000 communities we serve. 

As part of this important milestone, we partnered with Morning Consult to gauge how Americans view our role in curbing tobacco and vaping use and improving the health of communities nationwide. With the survey revealing that more than three-quarters of Americans consider tobacco use as very harmful to their health, our commitment could not be more critical. 

Our decision helps fulfill our purpose of helping people on their path to better health. And Americans agree. Currently, nearly two-thirds of Americans believe our decision to stop selling tobacco products reduces the risk of chronic disease (65 percent) and addresses public health disparities (also 65 percent).

Our Role in Curbing Tobacco Use 

Stepping away from tobacco products allowed us to see positive outcomes almost immediately. For example, the elimination of pharmacy-associated tobacco products, complemented by a devoted smoking cessation program, led to people to purchasing 100 million fewer packs of cigarettes — or 2 billion cigarettes — within just one year. 

The survey revealed that Americans understand the value and promise of our decision to remove tobacco products from our stores, and believe that we have a key role in limiting access to tobacco and e-cigarette products. More than half of Americans (62 percent) agree that retailers, like CVS Pharmacy, can play a key role in improving tobacco cessation — and that belief is even stronger among non-smokers (68 percent) and non-smokers with children (also 68 percent). 

Furthermore, the survey demonstrated:

  • Nearly half (48 percent) of Americans are more likely to support a retailer that ends tobacco and e-cigarette sales; and

  • Nearly half (46 percent) of Americans say that a retailer ending the sale of tobacco and vaping products improves the health of their community.

Strategies to Reduce Tobacco Use  

It is our goal to help those who smoke quit and ensure those who don’t, never start. The survey underscored the importance of the role we play in tobacco cessation and prevention. Americans expressed widespread support for improving community education about the dangers of smoking (81 percent) and restricting marketing tactics for vaping that target youth (80 percent).

CVS Health has made significant investments in cessation and prevention programs across the nation, with a focus on tobacco prevention for youth. For example:

  • We launched a $50-million dollar initiative to help prevent youth smoking and create the first tobacco-free generation. This work has helped more than 200 colleges and universities on their journey to become tobacco free and has delivered cutting-edge tobacco education to millions of young people.

  • Recently, we launched an aggressive plan to combat increased youth vaping, which has increased 78 percent among high school students and 48 percent among middle school students between 2017 and 2018.

  • We committed to the Quit Big Tobacco pledge in April — joining more than 200 organizations vowing to not work with any marketing and public relations agencies that have ties with the tobacco industry.

We look forward to continuing our work to create the first tobacco-free generation and promoting better health in communities nationwide.

For more information about CVS Health’s efforts to improve care across the nation, visit our News & Insights page and the CVS Health Impact Dashboard. To stay informed about the latest updates and innovations from CVS Health, register for content alerts and our Leaders in Care newsletter.

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Tobacco-free for five years

Five years ago, we made the bold decision to eliminate tobacco products from all of our CVS Pharmacy stores nationwide, and we’re still the only national pharmacy to do so.

Not only did our decision lead to 100 million fewer packs of cigarettes being sold in the first year since their removal, but we also took our efforts beyond our stores, helping 228 colleges and universities become tobacco free over the past five years and committing $50 million to deliver the first tobacco-free generation through our Be The First initiative.

And with the significant rise in teen e-cigarette use, we’re now working to combat vaping, too, including a $10 million commitment in 2019 to support youth smoking and e-cigarette prevention strategies and education in partnership with Discovery Education and CATCH Global Foundation, and our pledge earlier this year not to work with advertising or public relations agencies who work with tobacco and e-cigarette companies.

Beyond Tobacco: Taking Steps to Transform Health Care

But our decision to eliminate tobacco was just the start. As a health care company now combined with Aetna, we’re taking even bolder steps to transform the consumer health care experience and help lead our customers, patients and the communities we serve on a path to better health.

On our shelves, customers now have access to more health-focused products and services than ever before. And we recently became the first and only national retailer to require that all vitamins and supplements undergo third-party testing to confirm they meet our high standards.

We’re also removing chemicals like parabens and phthalates from our store brand products and we took SPF less than 15 off our shelves.

At the local level, we’re building healthier communities with a $100 million investment in health and wellness, which includes programs aimed at helping people manage the most prevalent chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Moving into 2020, we will expand our focus on tobacco cessation and prevention, particularly within the Medicaid program where smoking rates are considerably higher than among all adults. We’ll be working with Aetna Better Health managed Medicaid plans and together with CVS Caremark clients interested in creating or expanding smoking cession efforts for their Medicaid members.

At CVS Health, we know that health is a personal journey. And from tobacco removal to our many other health-focused services and offerings, we’re committed to navigating that journey hand-in-hand with our customers and patients to ensure that the future of care is one in which everyone can achieve their best health.

In 2014, we quit tobacco. Nearly 65% of Americans agree that our decision to stop selling tobacco reduces the risk of chronic disease. 62% of adults agree that retailers have an obligation to limit access to tobacco and e-cigarette products. 81% of adults support improving community education about the dangers of smoking.

Features, Stories and Updates

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Puppets Educate Families About Maryland’s Secondhand Smoking Law

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Aetna Better Health® of Maryland joined the Allegany County Human Resources Development Commission Head Start/Early Head Start Program and the Allegany County Public Schools Judy Center as those organizations discussed the dangers of secondhand smoke with parents of local children. The health plan attended the event and shared benefit information with participants about the Ted E. Bear, M.D. Club Smoking Cessation Program.

Held at the South Penn and Beall Elementary Schools in Cumberland, the events educated parents about changes in the state law about smoking around children and brought together various county resources, including those that can help with smoking cessation.

The Blue Sky Puppet Theater presented Rufus Battles Second Hand Smoke as a fun way to explain to families the effects of smoking, the new law and peer pressure. After the presentation, one parent stated that they “…were not aware that they could get a citation for smoking in the car with their child.”

As parents become more aware of the many reasons why they shouldn’t smoke around their children at any time, Maryland schoolteachers are hopeful that attendance will improve.

“Aetna Better Health of Maryland’s purpose is to serve our members where they are and meet their needs with meaningful resources and services to enhance their lives and improve their health and well-being,” said Sarah Bush, Community Development coordinator. “How do we do that? As part of the Managed Care Organization (MCO) we participate in the State’s Health Choice Program (Medicaid), and offer services throughout Maryland. Our network of providers and resource vendors are valued partners and we give them the best innovative tools and technology to ensure their success in serving out members.”

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Working Towards a Tobacco-Free Future

Working Towards a Tobacco-Free Future
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Part of our commitment to building healthier communities is helping people live tobacco-free lives. One of the best ways we can support the health of our communities and fulfill our purpose of helping people on their path to better health is to help those who smoke quit and ensure those who don’t, never start.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nine out of 10 smokers first try cigarette smoking by age 18, and 98 percent first try smoking by age 26 — establishing extended tobacco use patterns.https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/youth_data/tobacco_use/index.htm  Preventing tobacco product use among youth is especially critical to addressing the tobacco epidemic in the United States.

A Pledge to Not Work with Agencies that Promote Tobacco Use 

Tobacco companies claim that they have left deceptive marketing tactics in the past. However, they are increasingly using new channels to directly target our youth. Tactics such as the promotion of kid-friendly flavors by social media influencers have contributed to the nearly 80 percent rise in vaping among U.S. high school students between 2017 and 2018. 

Recognizing this problem, CVS Health recently committed to the Quit Big Tobacco pledge — joining more than 200 organizations vowing to not work with any marketing and public relations agencies that have ties with the tobacco industry. The Quit Big Tobacco campaign was created by Vital Strategies, an international public health organization who promotes its Tobacco-Free Agencies list so that companies can make sure the ad or public relations agencies they partner with do not work for the tobacco industry. 
    
Currently, CVS Health is working to add language outlining the requirement to contracts for both current and future partnerships with all marketing agencies. We are excited to be the first major corporate brand to take this pledge and urge other companies to join us in this critically important fight.

Preventing Tobacco Use among Youth 

Five years ago, CVS Health quit selling all tobacco products and made a commitment to help people lead tobacco-free lives. A key element of this commitment focuses on our efforts to create the first-ever tobacco-free generation. As a front door to health care in 10,000 communities nationwide, CVS Health is working to help people avoid tobacco use through our pharmacies, MinuteClinic locations and community programs and partnerships.

In addition to investing in cessation programs for people of all ages, CVS Health has made significant investments in tobacco prevention for youth. Be the First is a five-year, $50-million commitment aimed at delivering the first tobacco-free generation by bringing together the nation’s leading anti-tobacco and youth-serving organizations to support education, advocacy and tobacco control and healthy behavior programming. 

Through this commitment, we achieved the following milestones in 2018

  • Provided more than $4 million in support to youth smoking and e-cigarette prevention; 
  • Helped 82 college campuses go tobacco-free; and 
  • Reached more than 9 million youth with smoking prevention messaging.

We look forward to continuing our work on tobacco-free education and prevention in communities nationwide.   

To learn more about our efforts to reduce smoking rates, visit our Tobacco Prevention & Cessation information center. And to stay informed about the most talked-about topics in health care, register for content alerts and our bi-weekly health care newsletter.

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American Cancer Society and CVS Health Foundation Award Grants to Help 20 Colleges and Universities Go Tobacco-Free in Largest Initiative of Its Kind

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ATLANTA, Nov. 14, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- The American Cancer Society and the CVS Health Foundation today awarded grants to 20 U.S. colleges and universities as part of their Tobacco-Free Generation Campus Initiative (TFGCI), a $3.6 million multi-year program intended to accelerate and expand the adoption and implementation of 100 percent smoke- and tobacco-free campus policies. The announcement coincides this week with the American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout.

The Tobacco-Free Generation Campus Initiative is part of Be The First, CVS Health's five-year, $50 million initiative that supports education, advocacy, tobacco control, and healthy behavior programming to help deliver the nation's first tobacco-free generation. CVS Health has set actionable and measurable goals for Be The First, including a doubling of the number of tobacco-free college and university campuses in the United States.

"With our partners at CVS Health, we are excited to support the efforts of many dedicated students, faculty and staff to make their campuses smoke- and tobacco-free using proven strategies that will also reduce tobacco use among students," said Gary M. Reedy, Chief Executive Officer for the American Cancer Society. "To be successful in creating a tobacco-free generation, it is important that we prevent and eliminate lethal and addictive tobacco use among college students."

The American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout will take place on Thursday, November 17. The annual intervention effort encourages smokers to quit for a day, quit for good, or make a plan to quit, and raises awareness around the many tools and resources they can use to help them quit.

Grant Recipients from Coast to Coast

Over the next three years, the Tobacco-Free Generation Campus Initiative will award grants to a total of 125 colleges and universities throughout the U.S. with the greatest need for stronger tobacco prevention and control. The grants will help schools successfully advocate for, adopt and implement 100 percent smoke- and tobacco-free campus policies. Campuses will also receive technical assistance and resources to support their efforts with education, communications, cessation, and evaluation.

The University of Pennsylvania is one of the first 20 grant recipients, and is working towards becoming the first Ivy League institution to adopt a 100 percent tobacco-free campus policy.

"We are grateful to be among the recipients of the American Cancer Society/CVS Health Foundation tobacco control grant as it recognizes and supports Penn's commitment to a tobacco-free campus," said Penn President Amy Gutmann. "Under the leadership of Penn pulmonologist Frank Leone, we have developed an innovative, interdisciplinary approach to smoking cessation that has yielded unprecedented success in just two years. Frank Leone and his colleagues understand the complexity of the problem of tobacco dependence and the need to take a long-term view to change tobacco behaviors. This generous grant will greatly aid the University's ongoing efforts to effectively address this major public health epidemic."

Other grant recipients include: Bowling Green State University (Ohio), California State University San Marcos, Davenport University (Mich.), East Carolina University (N.C.), El Paso Community College (Texas), Indiana University Bloomington, Lenoir-Rhyne University (N.C.), Merritt College (Calif.), Montclair State University (N.J.), Oakland University (Mich.), Penn State University (Pa.), Piedmont Community College (N.C.), Saint Mary's College of California, Springfield College (Mass.), St. Xavier University (Ill.), Texas Christian University, Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi, University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College (Ohio) and University of Michigan.

Public Support for Tobacco Control on Campus

TFGCI grants are intended to address a critical, unmet need by supporting efforts to advocate for, establish and institute smoke- and tobacco-free campus policies. The U.S. Department of Education reports there are approximately 4,700 institutions of higher education in the United States. According to the Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation, only 1,427 campuses are 100-percent smoke- and tobacco-free. That reflects major progress over earlier years, but much remains to be done.

According to a new national Morning Consult poll of 2,202 registered voters commissioned by CVS Health on October 12-18 2016, there is strong public support for addressing the continued impact of tobacco use on college and university campuses. Among the key poll findings:

  • Seventy-six-percent of Americans think youth smoking and/or tobacco use is a problem. Similarly, 69% of Americans think college student smoking and/or tobacco use is a problem.
  • More than half of Americans (56%) think the number of tobacco-free campuses is too low. This is similar among U.S. college students where the combined percentage is 54 percent.
  • Three-quarters (75%) of Americans support policies that prohibit smoking and other tobacco use on college campuses.
  • Fifty-two percent of Americans think whether or not a campus is tobacco-free is an important consideration when applying to, and potentially attending, a college/university, ranking behind academic quality (86%) and quality of housing (79%), but ahead of how competitive athletic teams are (38%).

"We're at a critical moment in our nation's efforts to end the epidemic of smoking and tobacco use, and expanding the number of tobacco-free college and university campuses is an important step in our efforts," said Troyen A. Brennan, M.D., M.P.H., and Chief Medical Officer for CVS Health. "We're confident our strategy will drive a significant decline in the number of new college-age smokers, and contribute to the progress being made where a tobacco-free generation in the U.S. seems possible."

Accepting Applications for New Grants

In partnership with the CVS Health Foundation, the American Cancer Society will begin accepting online applications for the next round of Tobacco-Free Generation Initiative (TFGCI) grants. The fall grant cycle will run through February 28, 2017 with the names of grant recipients to be announced in May 2017.

In addition to grants, colleges and universities will receive technical assistance throughout the tobacco-free policy planning and implementation process. Technical assistance will be provided through webinars, online resources and limited one-on-one consultations.

To learn more about the Tobacco-Free Generation Campus Initiative (TFGCI), U.S. colleges and universities are encouraged to visit www.CVSHealth.com/tobaccofreecampus. To apply for a TFGCI grant, visit www.cancer.org/tfgci.

About The American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society is a global grassroots force of 2 million volunteers saving lives in every community. As the largest voluntary health organization, the Society's efforts have contributed to a 23 percent decline in cancer death rates in the U.S. since 1991, and a 50 percent drop in smoking rates. We're finding cures as the nation's largest private, not-for-profit investor in cancer research, ensuring people facing cancer have the help they need and continuing the fight for access to quality health care, lifesaving screenings and more. For more information, to get help, or to join the fight, call us anytime, day or night, at (800) 227-2345 or visit cancer.org.

About the CVS Health Foundation

The CVS Health Foundation is a private charitable organization created by CVS Health (NYSE:CVS) that works to build healthier communities, enabling people of all ages to lead healthy, productive lives. The Foundation provides strategic investments to nonprofit partners throughout the U.S. who help increase community-based access to health care for underserved populations, create innovative approaches to chronic disease management and provide tobacco cessation and youth prevention programming. We also invest in scholarship programs that open the pathways to careers in pharmacy to support the academic aspirations of the best and brightest talent in the industry. Our philanthropy also extends to supporting our colleagues' spirit of volunteerism through Volunteer Challenge grants to nonprofits where they donate their time and fundraising efforts. To learn more about the CVS Health Foundation and its giving, visit www.cvshealth.com/social-responsibility.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:

American Cancer Society: Charaighn Sesock, 559.972.4877, charaighn.sesock@cancer.org
CVS Health: Joe Goode, 401.770.9820, jlgoode@cvs.com

3 in 4 Americans support tobacco-free policies on campus.

Smart campuses quit. #BeTheFirst

Tobacco free tastes better. #BeTheFirst

Clearing the air: tobacco use on campus infographic.

SOURCE CVS Health

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Message from Larry Merlo, President and CEO

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Larry J. Merlo is President and CEO of CVS Caremark

 

CVS Pharmacy will stop selling cigarettes and all tobacco products at its more than 7,600 stores nationwide by October 1, 2014

Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS Pharmacy is simply the right thing to do for the good of our customers and our company. The sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose – helping people on their path to better health.

As the delivery of health care evolves with an emphasis on better health outcomes, reducing chronic disease and controlling costs, CVS Caremark is playing an expanded role through our 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners. By removing tobacco products from our retail shelves, we will better serve our patients, clients and health care providers while positioning CVS Caremark for future growth as a health care company. Cigarettes and tobacco products have no place in a setting where health care is delivered. This is the right thing to do.

The sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose – helping people on their path to better health.
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Making the Next Generation Tobacco-Free

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Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ Gustavo Torrez shares why empowering youth is critical to ending tobacco use.

Empowering youth can help create a tobacco-free generation.
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How to Talk to Your Kids About the Dangers of Smoking and Tobacco Use

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Eileen Howard Boone, President of the CVS Health Foundation and Senior Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropy for CVS Health, shares tips for successfully talking to kids about tobacco.

Talking to kids about tobacco is an important step in delivering the first tobacco-free generation.

As teenagers continue to be exposed to images and messages that glamorize smoking — in movies and on TV, through advertisements, and now with e-cigarettes — conversations about the dangers of tobacco use have never been more important.

A recent FDA report showed that 16 percent of high school and 5.3 percent of middle school students were current users of e-cigarettes in 2015, making e-cigarettes the most commonly used tobacco product among youth for the second consecutive year. That is a startling statistic that cannot be ignored, especially when you consider that those who begin smoking earlier in life are more likely to develop a severe nicotine addiction. As your kids head back to high school and college, the only way to help them avoid the dangers of smoking is to start a dialogue to arm them with information and empower them to become their own advocates and part of the nation’s first tobacco-free generation.

It’s not an easy conversation to have, but it is a necessary one. Here are five tips to help you get started when talking to your teens about tobacco use:

1. Emphasize that being tobacco-free is part of a healthy lifestyle.

When talking to your kids about the importance of a healthy lifestyle, be sure to include not smoking in the conversation. Teens and young adults should know that avoiding tobacco is as important as continuing to eat healthy foods and being physically active. By incorporating a tobacco-free orientation into your family’s overall health goals, you can help reinforce this idea over time.

2. Be a role model as a non-smoker and choose wisely.

Kids who grow up in a smoke-free home are healthier and less likely to smoke themselves. According to the CDC, nearly 41 percent of children between the ages of 3 – 11 are exposed to secondhand smoke, which even at brief levels can be harmful to a person’s health. Insist on a smoke-free household and try to visit only smoke-free establishments. And make sure to explain to your kids why you choose certain restaurants and businesses over others. This way, they can learn to seek out and choose tobacco-free environments on their own.

3. Share your own thoughts and experiences.

Though it can be difficult to do, sharing your own lessons and experiences with smoking and tobacco use can help you reach your teenagers on a deeper, more meaningful level. Letting them know just how difficult it can be to quit – be it from your own personal experience or from watching someone else in your life become tobacco-free – can make a big impact and help teach your teenagers about the long-term implications of tobacco use. Most importantly, let them know how much it means to you that they lead tobacco-free lives. And encourage them to share what they’ve learned with their friends through social media, photos or even a school science project. It can be hard, so be persistent.

4. Explain that they won’t just be hurting themselves.

Secondhand smoke kills. Be sure to let your teenagers and young adults know that tobacco smoke can be just as dangerous to those around the smoker (including pets!) as it is for the smoker themselves. Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including toxic ingredients, and around 70 of these chemicals are believed to cause cancer. Discussing the dangers of secondhand smoke with your children will not only help them understand the larger implications of smoking, but also help them make smarter choices about who to hang out with if their peers around them begin to experiment with tobacco.

5. Talk about e-cigarettes.

Though cigarette smoking has decreased among youth in recent years, the use of e-cigarettes is unfortunately on the rise among middle, high school and college students. Many people mistakenly assume these products are safer because they don’t contain tobacco, however e-cigarettes do contain nicotine — the same addictive chemical as traditional cigarettes — and tests have found that some also contain toxic chemicals like formaldehyde. Since the packaging on these products tends to be geared towards teenagers, it is crucial to include e-cigarettes in your conversation when discussing the dangers of smoking with your kids. Make sure they understand that these products are not safe, and that they should avoid them and their addictive qualities like they would tobacco.

By talking to our kids about the dangers of tobacco, we can encourage them to lead tobacco-free lives. Through creating an understanding of the lifelong damage tobacco use and smoking can inflict for our youth, we can ensure that those who don’t smoke never start, and provide those who do with the support they need to quit. And together, we can help deliver the first tobacco-free generation.

Talking to kids about tobacco is an important step in delivering the first tobacco-free generation.
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We’re Tobacco Free

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It’s official! All CVS Pharmacy locations are tobacco free as of September 3, 2014, beating our original target date by nearly a month. When we first shared our decision to remove cigarettes and tobacco from the shelves of our 7,700 CVS Pharmacy locations, some called it a bold decision. We called it the right decision then, and we call it the right decision now.

We all know the dangers associated with tobacco products. In fact, smoking is the leading cause of premature disease and death in the United States with more than 480,000 deaths each year. While the prevalence of cigarette smoking has decreased from approximately 42 percent of adults in 1965 to 18 percent today, the rate of reduction in smoking prevalence has stalled in the past decade. More interventions, such as reducing the availability of cigarettes, are needed.

"CVS Health is always looking for ways to promote health and reduce the burden of disease," said Troyen A. Brennan, M.D., M.P.H., Chief Medical Officer of CVS Health. "Putting an end to the sale of cigarettes and tobacco will make a significant difference in reducing the chronic illnesses associated with tobacco use."

For some of our customers this is nothing new; they already experience a tobacco-free CVS Pharmacy. For example, two stores in the San Francisco market and dozens of stores in Massachusetts – where tobacco sales are banned by local ordinance – are tobacco free. And since the spring, new and relocated CVS Pharmacy stores have opened without cigarettes and other tobacco products behind the counter.

"Every day, all across the country, customers and patients place their trust in our 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners to serve their health care needs," said Helena B. Foulkes, President of CVS Pharmacy. "The removal of cigarettes and other tobacco products from our stores is an important step in helping Americans to quit smoking and get healthy."

Throughout the rest of 2014, our CVS Pharmacy stores will be unveiling new signage behind the checkout and will introduce a robust smoking cessation program and an enhanced selection of nicotine replacement products in select stores.

Learn more about our smoking cessation program here.

It’s official! All CVS Pharmacy locations are tobacco free as of September 3, 2014!
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