Smokers were in an uproar as CVS Caremark, the second largest drugstore chain in the United States, announced plans to stop carrying cigarettes and other tobacco products at all of its 7,600 locations by October 1.
“We understand that CVS is a private company and it’s within its control to sell or not sell cigarettes,” John Beenes, president of Americans for Smokers Rights, says. “But smokers also have a right to kill themselves and CVS, in its decision to stop selling cigarettes, is infringing on that right. We will certainly fight this all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court if we have to.”
CVS, based in Woonsocket, R.I., announced in February that its decision is intended in part to get other drugstores to stop selling cigarettes. “I think it will put pressure on other retailers who want to be in healthcare,” said CVS Caremark Chief Medical Officer Dr. Troyen Brennan.
But Sandra Klein, a 30-year smoker who doesn’t have easy access to cigarette purchases, says CVS is encroaching on her right to exacerbate her emphysema, which she deveoped about eight years ago. “If I want to have emphasema, that’s my business,” said Klein in a statement, because she’s no longer able to talk. “CVS is the only place that’s convenient for me to get my emphasema-enabling product, because I can only walk about 100 yards before I must sit down. CVS is the only retail outlet within that 100-yard distance, so for it to stop selling cigarettes will mean tough choices for me. And that’s not right.”
Beenes said his organization has reached out to CVS for discussions on whether it would reconsider what he called an “ill-conceived, clearly problematic decision,” but the drugstore has not responded to his overtures. “They’re sticking their head in the sand,” he said of the drugstore. “They think if they don’t respond we’ll go away, but I can promise them that we will not go away. As long as I have a breath in my lungs, I will fight them until the Supreme Court rules on whether they can deny smokers their cigarettes in this unilateral way.”
Several members of Americans for Smokers Rights in Tucson, Ariz., had planned a boycott of all CVS stores in their city, but two of the intended protesters died of heart failure, so the protest has been delayed.
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