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If you thought the idea of making people stop smoking reached its zenith when hideous pictures were suggested to be put on packs to frighten smokers and when taxes were raised to the point of insult, now we have a major corporation deciding to stop selling a legal product under the guise of “doing the right thing for the good of our customers and our company.”

Remember that phrase, “doing the right thing.”

The company is CVS Caremark. They operate what we used to call “drugstores,” but any resemblance is long gone. They’re a big outfit with more than 7,600 stores nationwide and reported sales of $123 billion.

I got to know them when they came into our area and bought out a locally owned pharmacy chain, which essentially meant for many residents that CVS had almost a monopoly on that business. The couple of competing pharmacies are a fair drive away, so CVS is it.

The first thing they did was gradually eliminate many brand products, replacing them with their own label. So not only did we become captive to their virtual monopoly of stores, we also became subject to their house brands.

Then, they gradually expanded their product lines, bringing in food of all kinds, frozen and canned goods, dairy, breads, produce, beverages and snacks. They carry stationary and school supplies, holiday decorations and costumes, dry goods including clothing and all kinds of household items, even plants and fertilizer.

In other words, they were no more “drugstores” or even pharmacies than a mall is Main Street.

Oh, they do sell over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies, and they do have a pharmacy – located at the back of the store, but in total square footage, it’s miniscule.

And yes, they do sell tobacco products, kept under lock and key behind counters. In my local store, that tobacco case is about four feet wide and five or six shelves high. Hardly anything to get excited about, considering they have aisle upon aisle filled with snacks, candies, soft drinks, ice creams and liquor.

But Larry Merlo, president and CEO, said they’re eliminating tobacco sales in all of their stores because selling them “is inconsistent with our purpose – helping people on their path to better health.”

Oh.

In that area, they have some 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners, and they also have some 800 MinuteClinics in their stores.

Merlo also said removing tobacco products is part of “positioning CVS Caremark for future growth as a health-care company.”

Don’t think that’s so far-fetched.

With the spread of Obamacare, the reduced availability of medical care, the decreased numbers of physicians and the federal and state efforts to cut costs, you can look forward to using a pharmacy as your local health-care provider. They already push flu shots there and are beginning to expand services, depending on where you live.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t look forward to discussing my health issues at a facility that’s stacked with all kinds of consumer products that have nothing to do with medicine.

Call me “old fashioned,” but I want a nurse and a doctor, not a pharmacist and a nurse practitioner.

Larry Merlo also said that “cigarettes and tobacco products have no place in a setting where health care is delivered.”

That may be, Mr. Merlo, but neither do miles of aisles filled with sugar, salt and fat laden foods and snacks and imported junk from China.

And speaking of “a setting where health care is delivered,” how do you justify your huge liquor departments? Those products are on open shelves, with only a few expensive labels under lock and key.

If you’re that concerned about customer health, why not eliminate liquor?

My neighborhood CVS has two huge aisles for alcohol, shelves on both sides, probably 150+ running feet, filled floor to above eye level with every kind of booze imaginable. Add to that, end displays of cases of beer and refrigerator cases for beer, wine and champagne.

Talk about choices: vodka and gin, plain and flavored; brandy; rum and mixed rums; bourbon; scotch; Irish whiskey, Canadian and other whiskeys; tequila; Cognac; Schnapps; Courvoisier; Irish Crème; Kahlua; Grand Marnier; Triple Sec; Amaretto; and a whole cornucopia of wines – red, white and pink – and all the myriad varieties in sizes from individual to gallons, plus all the mixes.

They even have three kinds of “Moonshine” in “canning jars” and something called “Adult Chocolate Milk,” with vodka!

All this for their customers, including the nearby college kids who stock up for weekend parties, as do the kids from the two nearby high schools. (Just check with the local police for details; I have.)

I have no doubt CVS checks IDs. I’ve seen them do it – but let’s face it, once that alcohol gets out of the store, they have no control over who drinks it.

To be honest about this, I smoked for a short time years ago and haven’t since. I hate the smell of cigarette smoke, but I do not favor the rampant anti-smoking laws. A neighboring city is passing laws forbidding smoking in private homes! That sounds unconstitutional and needs testing in court.

I enjoy a variety of alcoholic beverages and I’m not in favor of prohibition. We tried that, and it didn’t work.

I resent the moves to eliminate tobacco from our society. To have a carton of cigarettes cost $30-$40 and more, because of taxation, is obscene and only drives the black market. It’s simply done to punish smokers and make money for the state.

For CVS to ban tobacco from its stores smacks of currying favor from Washington in hopes of getting federal money to establish those health clinics in their facilities.

As Larry Merlo said, “This is the right thing to do.”

I’ll bet it is.      

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