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Drugstore chain, CVS Caremark, announced it will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products later this year. It's a big move and one that's left many wondering how it will steer the industry. The decision is a sign the drugstore giant is morphing into a healthcare provider, alongside the 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners on staff. The ban, which will begin in the fall, is being praised by healthcare organizations and practitioners.
"Here is a great big company, a very profitable company that is willing to put public health and the welfare of their customers ahead of their profit motive," said Dr. Mitchell Lirtzman, a cardiologist at Regional Medical Center of Acadiana.
Lirtzman says despite the onslaught of health warnings over the years, he sees tobacco related diseases and deaths every day.
"Tobacco is one of the greatest healthcare scourges of our time," said Lirtzman.
But of course, the anti-smoking message is nothing new. In the 1970's cigarette ads were banned from television and today, countless bars, restaurants, and campuses have banned smoking as well. The Center for Disease Control says smoking has declined from 37% in 1970 to 18% in 2012. But Lirtzman says it's still heavily prevalent close to home.
"(Even) if everybody in Louisiana would stop smoking today, "said Lirtzman, "I would still be busy for the next 10 years."
While the ban won't prevent tobacco purchases at other stores, he still thinks the anti-smoking message will discourage younger generations and have a long-term effect.
"That affect won't be seen next year, five years from now, seen 10 years from now, or two decades from now, until the cancer rates start coming down," said Lirtzman.