In 2014 CVS Caremark, the second-largest drugstore chain in the U.S., dropped tobacco from their stores stating it was the right thing to do in light of their new image of becoming a health care company. Analysts’ and CVS expected the profits to drop, and they did, for a time. But something happened that wasn’t expected: the CVS effect, in which tobacco sales decreased and nicotine patch sales increased in 13 states. The company also developed Be The First, a “five year, $50 million commitment to help deliver the nation’s first tobacco-free generation.” As the second year of the program rolls out, $10 million will be used to fund “expanded partnerships and programs,” developed during the first year in the areas of “anti-smoking education, tobacco-control advocacy, and healthy behavior programming.”
Introduced in March 2016, Be The First targets groups in three areas: elementary school children, who will receive tobacco education to decrease the risk of becoming future tobacco users; youth and young adults “who currently smoke or are at risk of becoming regular tobacco users; and “adult smokers who expose children to tobacco use.” In the first year CVS Health had anti-smoking programs reaching nearly 5 million young people. They have also helped 20 colleges and universities pursue 100% smoke- and tobacco-free campus policies.
In order to reach more youth and youth adults in the area of tobacco prevention education, CVS Health Foundation is partnering with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids with a $5 million commitment. This funding will provide online training courses for young people to become tobacco prevention ambassadors and will focus on “how tobacco affects youth” and “ways for people to advocate for tobacco-free communities.” With flavored cigars and the explosion of e-cigarettes on the market, it is essential that youth be educated in the targeting methods of the tobacco industry. The announcement comes during the week of “Kick Butts Day on March 15, the Campaign for Tobacco free Kids’ national day of activism that empowers youth to stand out, speak up and mobilize their communities in fighting tobacco use.”
While the CVS Health Foundation is encouraging the tobacco prevention education of youth, they are also teaming up with the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE to “win the battle against lung cancer.” They hope to become an advocate in the communities and have customers take “advantage of tobacco-free resources for their towns, schools and public areas.” CVS Health Foundations will also focus on helping adult smokers with cessation programs to improve their health and the health of their families and children due to secondhand smoke exposure. By partnering with the National Cancer Institute later this year, and investing nearly $1 million, they will “address smoking cessation in the oncology setting across several of the nation’s leading cancer hospitals.
Removing tobacco in CVS stores “reduced the number of cigarette purchases across all retail settings with an even greater impact on those who bought cigarettes exclusively at CVS Pharmacy.” Ending tobacco sales may have lowered their profits, but it increased their commitment to make communities healthier. Educating our youth and young adults about the dangers of tobacco and providing providing customers with the ability to spread tobacco-free messaging throughout their communities, can bring us one step closer to “delivering the first tobacco-free generation.”