Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 9, 2015

Smoke-Out: Harkin, Senate Democrats Ask Drug Stores to Follow CVS’ Lead

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Eight Senate Democrats are pushing other drug store chains to follow the lead of CVS Caremark and ditch the habit of selling cigarettes.

“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,” the senators wrote.

CVS announced last week that it would voluntarily abandon sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products, citing public health concerns and the company’s role as a health care provider and insurance company.

The senators’ request comes in the form of letters to the heads of Walgreens, Rite Aid and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. Health, Education Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, led the letters, joined by Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Barbara Boxer of California, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, as well as Rhode Islanders Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse.

CVS is headquartered in Woonsocket, R.I.

The letter to Rite Aid CEO John T. Standley appears below:

Dear Mr. Standley,

We write to urge Rite Aid, 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. 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, Rite Aid has the power to further foster the health and wellness of its customers and send a critical message to all Americans — and especially children – about the dangers of tobacco use.

CVS Caremark’s historic announcement comes on the heels of the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health, and new revelations in the latest Surgeon General’s report that smoking is even more hazardous and takes an even greater toll on the nation’s health than previously known. Smoking kills 480,000 Americans annually, sickens millions more, and costs the nation more than $289 billion every year. The impact of tobacco on our nation’s children is impossible to ignore – 90 percent of adult smokers began at or before age 18, and 5.6 million kids alive today will die prematurely from smoking-caused disease unless current trends are reversed. These findings highlight the critical need for all sectors of our community to play a role in ending the unnecessary disease and death that results from tobacco use.

CVS Caremark’s bold and admirable decision will complement federal efforts to save lives and reduce health care 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.

In recognition of the 8.6 million Americans who currently suffer from smoking-caused illnesses, we hope you will join this national effort to end the scourge of tobacco use. We look forward to working with you in a joint effort to promote the health of all Americans.

Comments (78)

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  1. frjm

    Feb. 10, 2014
    12:52 p.m.

    It’s really none of their business.

  2. Layla

    Feb. 10, 2014
    1:08 p.m.

    Why ask? Why not just have Obama decree it so???? Go HOME, Sen. Harkin. We don’t need you anymore. We have an emperor now.

  3. yahoouser1165

    Feb. 10, 2014
    1:34 p.m.

    So they don’t are sending letters asking a commercial enterprise to change their business practice in order make the USG happy. Where are the letters to the Colorado government asking them to change the new law on marijuana?

  4. Bill Chelmowski

    Feb. 10, 2014
    6:38 p.m.

    Fascists never change.

  5. Layla

    Feb. 11, 2014
    7:23 a.m.

    This is what happens when you spend a lifetime in Congress. You become so arrogant you forget why you were sent. Our entire Congress is made up of people like this. We’ve lost our homes, jobs, can’t pay our bills, CAN’T LIVE, but by GOD they are going to continue to force a lifestyle upon us even if it takes down the entire country. What will you decide to tax when tobacco is gone?

    Congratulations, Congress, you have succeeded in destroying our lives!

  6. yesIDeeClaire

    Feb. 11, 2014
    2:45 p.m.

    For whatever reason, we tend to forget that Obama also lied about televising the Obamacare debates:

  7. Doug

    Feb. 11, 2014
    6:33 p.m.

    Stupidity! This looks like nothing but politicians seeking free publicity. Pressuring one segment of the distribution channel will do nothing to diminish demand … and sells.

    Tobacco is an addiction. Until a person decides that they want to quiet, they will just find another place to buy their cig’s. I have two close friends who have been trying to quiet for years. It is 37 degrees here today. They were outside in their car this morning, running the engine, and smoking so they wouldn’t stink up the house! … That’s what I call an addiction.

  8. Michael Nunez

    Feb. 12, 2014
    3:35 a.m.

    Here we find Joe Biden lying about the central government’s contraception dictates that are part of Obamacare:

  9. Phillip Wilson

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    6:07 a.m.

    Hussein Obama lies to you repeatedly about keeping your insurance and your doctor:

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    9:23 a.m.

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    Feb. 15, 2014
    4:04 a.m.

    There’s no compassion in blatantly lying to people in order to force centrally planned medical care upon them:

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