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Three powerful forces converge at neighborhood CVS drug stores

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POSTED February 10, 2014 12:26 a.m.

CVS drug stores will no longer going to sell cigarettes after Oct. 1.

The move will cost the chain $2 billion in annual sales.

CVS is free to sell what they wish as long as it is legal. We are told by the CVS brass that the decision was based on the sale of tobacco products conflicting with the move to make their 7,600 stores more of a healthcare provider operation than simply a retail operation connected with a pharmacy.

That’s great. But just how deep is the CVS commitment to being a heath care provider?

Cigarettes can kill. There is no debate about that. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate there are 484,000 tobacco-related deaths each year.

The CDC also puts the number of deaths from alcohol-related diseases are 24,518. Combine that with other alcohol-related deaths each year such as those in accidents caused by alcohol and the death toll rises to 78,000.

The surgeon general also estimates 300,000 Americans die annually from obesity-related deaths.

Does that mean we can expect CVS to clear their shelves next of beer, wine, junk food, soda, and items with processed sugar? You surely don’t see Oreo cookies sold in a doctor’s office or six packs of Budweiser being hawked just like you don’t see Marlboro cigarettes being available. Certainly beer and junk food sales don’t jive with the CVS move to become drop-in wellness centers.

The number crunchers that run CVS are no dummies. Healthcare expenditures equal about 18 percent of the entire American economy today. That is expected to grow to 20 percent by 2020. Federal government insurance mandates are expected to open up a lucrative new revenue stream for corporations savvy enough to tap into it.

And what better way to endear a corporation to the politically correct decision makers that direct government business than to make a symbolic move?

If CVS plays it cards right losing the $2 billion in annual tobacco sales will have much more significant financial rewards.

Besides, any outlet can sell cigarettes but rare are retailers positioned to transform into a chain of 7,600 walk-in clinics to tap into the Affordable Health Act Mother Lode. Let the rest fight for the shrinking consumer dollars spent on tobacco. CVS intends to mine the Comstock.

There is nothing wrong with this strategy, legally or ethically. But to sell it as a moral decision is a tad disingenuous at best.

Obesity ranks right up there with smoking as a root cause of a wide repertoire of illnesses. Selling the foods researchers contend are most likely to lead to obesity and trigger health problems and even offering big deals on them clashes with CVS’ supposed wellness center commitment. This is a company that also sells a lot of diet aids and fills prescriptions for diseases where obesity is a major contributing factor such as high blood pressure.

Aren’t 300,000 deaths a year enough to justify no longer selling junk food for a firm reinventing itself as a health care provider?

Obesity doesn’t kill others who aren’t obese. There are some who get ill and die from secondhand smoke. Alcohol, though, routinely kills and maims people who didn’t even drink.

Alcohol is a factor in 10 percent of all injury accidents according to the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration. Almost have of the children under the age of 14  killed in auto accidents in 2010  were in  crashes caused by alcohol impaired drivers.

So why is CVS selling beer and wine that could lead to the death of an innocent child?

The answer is simple: For the time being, drinking is OK with the PC crowd that is dedicated to forcing the modification of individual behavior through government edicts and higher sin taxes.

The real worry here isn’t a business decision by CVS. They can use any justification they want on deciding whether to sell a legal item in their stores. But the move has emboldened the PC crowd to start dreaming and talking about pushing to eradicate smoking.

It isn’t too big of a stretch to see PC movements try to flex government muscle to ban soda dispensers in 7-Eleven stores in the name of saving lives.

This may sound a tad strange coming from me. I abhor smoking. I have never drank. I’ve sworn off soda. And I’m obsessed with not being obese again.

What is happening  here are three forces converging — government overreach, dictated behavior by PC edict, and American capitalism driven by opportunities created by government and the PC crowd — to act.

If they can score a profitable victory, then we are all at risk regardless since one man’s pleasure is another’s opinion of an evil vice that justifies chipping away at the freedom of the other guy.

Today cigarettes, tomorrow Pepsi.



This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or (209) 249-3519.

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