Iowa Senator Tom Harkin is praising this week’s decision by CVS pharmacies to stop selling tobacco products. Though that drug store chain is the nation’s second largest. Harkin, is a Democrat who chairs the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, he says the number-one drug store Walgreens should follow suit. “I’m calling on all drug stores to not sell tobacco, I don’t care where they are or where they’re located, certainly Walgreens would be one,” he says.
CVS has 18 stores in Iowa, while Walgreens has nearly 70. CVS says it will likely lose two billion dollars in annual revenue when it cuts off sales of cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco this fall. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller also praised the decision by CVS and joins in the call for other companies to follow suit.
Miller admits the move won’t stop people from smoking — and says it’s more about the message. “People will find cigarettes elsewhere it’s true…but part of this is the culture of tobacco and how we as a society think of tobacco,” Miller says. “Do we think about it as something that’s sort of okay or do we think about it as something where 400,000 Americans die each year, five-thousand Americans.”
Miller says CVS selling cigarettes sends a mixed message. “A company that’s in the business of making people healthy should not be in the business of selling cigarettes to make them very unhealthy and die. The difference, the contrast, is just too strong,” Millers says.
CVS and other pharmacies like Walgreens also sell alcohol, but the Attorney General isn’t calling for the liquor to come off the shelves in those stores too. “I wouldn’t say that they should stop selling alcohol. You know alcohol is a terrible issue for people that are addicted to alcohol — that’s a serious set of problems,” according to Miller.
He says there is a difference between the problems caused by alcohol and cigarettes. “Most people can drink alcohol and not be affected adversely, where as with cigarettes, it’s bad for everybody. It’s just sort of Russian Roulette, which people die,” Miller says. Miller believes the move by CVS will put pressure on their competitors to follow along when it comes to ending the sale of cigarettes in their stores.
Radio Iowa’s Matt Kelley also contributed to this story.