The War on Tobacco

The No Smoking sign, designed by one of the me...

The No Smoking sign, designed by one of the members of AIGA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve been following the WellPower blog this month, you know that we’ve been focusing on tobacco use as a health issue, and debating the implications of raising the smoking age to 21. Aside from the controversy surrounding the legal age of smoking, I think one thing that we can all agree on is how effective anti-tobacco education and awareness programs have become over the past two decades.

The ‘Truth’ anti-tobacco campaign has had a big impact: evaluations show that 90% of youth aged 12-17 felt that these advertisements were convincing, and they resonate so deeply that 75% could accurately describe one or more ‘Truth’ ads when asked. From 2000 to 2002, cigarette smoking among high school students fell by more than one million, due in part to this campaign.

…Compare these outcomes with those of the unsuccessful ‘War on Drugs’ campaign in the 1980’s.

Since the early 2000’s, momentum has grown. According to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, over 80% of Americans live in states, commonwealths or localities with smoking bans in workplaces, restaurants and/or bars as of January 2, 2014.

Some communities have taken these smoking bans one step further to encompass outdoor spaces. Last week, Baltimore County announced that smoking will be banned in the county’s parks. This bill, supported by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, focused on alleviating tobacco use in areas where children gather.

Another big piece of news that came out this month was the decision by the CVS pharmacy chain to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products by October 1st of 2014. This is significant, as it reflects CVS’s values

as a company. President Obama has applauded CVS’s landmark resolution, stating, “As one of the largest retailers and pharmacies in America, CVS Caremark sets a powerful example.”

CVS estimates that it will take an annual loss of $2 billion from tobacco shoppers once tobacco is removed from stores. However, I would bet that this decision could convince many shoppers who are opposed to the tobacco industry to patronize CVS over other pharmacies.

It remains to be seen whether this business decision will pay off financially as well as ethically. If CVS can make a business case for removing tobacco products, other companies may follow suit… prompting yet another big win for the war on tobacco.

Is there another smoking-related topic that you would like for us to explore in the future? Let us know by commenting below.

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I have extensive experience coordinating communications and outreach initiatives focused on health and social issues. In my current position as Project Specialist, I provide communications technical assistance to regional and federal efforts within the National Partnership for Action initiative, with support from the Office of Minority Health. I am a former Peace Corps volunteer who worked on health and social affairs projects in the Federated States of Micronesia. Read more.