Friday, 07 February 2014 09:55

CVS Decision to End Tobacco Sales Advances Obama Agenda

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Consumers and pundits had mixed responses, as reported by California's Fresno Bee, to Wednesday’s announcement from CVS Caremark that it would phase out sales of tobacco products by October 1. The Bee reported that CVS CEO Larry Merlo stated that the company concluded it could no longer sell cigarettes in a setting where healthcare also is being delivered.

The president and Mrs. Obama had high praise for the announcement.

NBC and the Wall Street Journal both referenced the president's personal interest in the cigarette debate as relating not only to his own struggle to quit, but to his national agenda for the smoking public.

Said NBC,

President Obama, a former smoker who tried for years to stop, immediately praised CVS, saying in a statement that their powerful example "will help advance my Administration's efforts to reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer, and heart disease, as well as bring down health care costs — ultimately saving lives and protecting untold numbers of families from pain and heartbreak for years to come.

The Wall Street Journal reported,

Mr. Obama’s administration has had some success in trying to further limit smoking as well. In 2009, for instance, Mr. Obama signed a law that put the tobacco industry under the regulation of the Food and Drug Administration and, among other things, enabled the agency to ban the industry from selling candy-and fruit-flavored cigarettes. The FDA said it will later this month launch its first large-scale advertising campaign to discourage teens from smoking.

Earlier this week the Food and Drug Administration announced a $115 million dollar campaign dubbed "Real Cost," that will use humorous ads and a few scare tactics to discourage teens from ever starting to smoke.

The Jounal added, “On other fronts, the administration hasn’t banned the sale of menthol cigarettes, which account for about $25 billion of tobacco sales in the U.S.”

Lost in all the commentary, however, is whether the president’s administration should have an agenda regarding tobacco use at all. Analysts have pointed out that no constitutional authority exists for the executive office to either promote or ban this individual behavior, or to influence a private company’s decision about the sale of tobacco. And no federal agency has the right to ban the use of products it deems “unhealthy,” or to regulate an entire industry in such a way. And neither does such an agency have the authority to spend enormous sums of taxpayer dollars on an advertising campaign toward such an end. 

Given President Obama’s pen-and-phone method of rule through executive orders, however, quite a different agenda is at work., a website seeking to provide information and education about capitalism, posed this question about the president’s statement:

Was CVS threatened, either directly or subtly, with some more coercive government action if it failed to take this "voluntary" action? It would be easy enough for the president, in his new executive order mode, to issue an order refusing to reimburse Medicare prescriptions filled at pharmacies in retail outlets where tobacco is also sold. Don't be surprised to see other pharamacy [sic] chains see the handwriting on the wall and follow in CVS's footsteps.  

Indeed, Walgreen’s has already announced it is considering a similar action. 

As an aside, the Washington Post noted that CVS Caremark is one of 300 companies signing on to a new White House “going private” initiative to end long-term unemployment (a condition free market adherents know is best remedied by business). The Post opined that as the public is currently paying less attention to the president than is required for him to impose his agenda, he’s forced to adopt new strategies, including “going private.” “That is, extolling the virtues of business practices it likes, hoping that the public follows suit and gets Congress on board.”  

This new initiative exemplifies the new strategy, and Obama is using CVS, among others, to implement it.

So what does “going private” have to do with CVS’s decision? Perhaps not much. But it does illustrate another veiled theft of American sovereignty that even the Post didn’t miss:

It's yet another step removed from the legislative process than even "going public" was, but if it works, "going private" could be a useful tool for a president who has had an especially difficult time getting the legislative branch to consider his policies.

Will all this affect the smoking rates? Back in Fresno, the Bee noted that smokers responded, predictably, that the CVS plans wouldn’t affect their habits:

Outside the downtown store on Wednesday, ex-smoker David Piercy, 39, said removing tobacco from the stores is "going to have zero impact on who's smoking, who isn't smoking."

The CVS decision is a voluntary one, but many observers note that it wouldn’t be much of a leap to expect the president to decree, by executive order if necessary, that tobacco use is one more thing under his authority if he wishes it to be. It's been known for decades now that smoking is not a healthy habit. And perhaps CVS is making a good statement in forgoing about $2 million a year in revenues in order to back up that belief. But constitutionalists note that true liberty requires that individuals have the freedom to make even wrong choices.

It’s worth watching to see if the president “goes private,” or exercises his pen/phone plan to force other private companies to follow suit in efforts to shore up his failing healthcare plan.


  • Comment Link Michael Dalene Saturday, 08 February 2014 19:30 posted by Michael Dalene

    Our governments are no longer representative of the People, and our "science" is no longer representative of Science.

    A basic Rule of science is that to be considered True it must be Observable and Repeatable. Using that Rule, I can PROVE that tobacco DOES NOT cause cancer or any other form of illness. If it is asserted that smoking a pack a day for 20 years caused someone to develop cancer (or any other illness) than everyone that smoked a pack a day for 20 years MUST develop cancer (or any other illness). Any exception Proves the Rule WRONG!... Contribute, Perhaps? Cause: NO WAY!

    I'm not saying that tobacco is necessarily good for one's health, only arguing the so-called 'science' condemning it! Just as some people are susceptible to allergens which may be something as simple as 'natural' pollens or animals, no one is demanding that all "harmful" allergens or animals be 'outlawed.'

    I for one cannot Rule out the toxic effects of pollutants found in everything from the air we breathe to the food we eat or the water we drink- all these are essential to our living but are PROVEN (by their science) to contain carcinogens which we should BAN as harmful...

    I personally think a pack of cigarettes a day is much 'healthier' than the combined effect of pollutants we are Forced to consume each day--- and Whom is to say that it is not the combined effects which cause cancers/illness and not any single source?

    First it was smoking. Then when that couldn't explain all the cases of cancer they added 'second-hand' smoke, and later when 1st and 2nd hand smoke couldn't explain the instances of cancer it was blamed on third-hand smoke...

    Medical science, contrary to what "they" would have you believe, has very little to do with advances in longevity and MUCH-TO-DO with advances in chemistry! Indeed, if not for the discovery/invention of modern drugs most everyone would die by age 50... as it is, more people die of infections they got while being hospitalized; more so than those that die as a result of drunk driving and murder, COMBINED!

    Note: More lives would be saved if law-enforcement efforts against drunk drivers and murderers was diverted to hospital disinfection.

    The fact is that the human lifespan cannot be proven to have increased one-millisecond in its 200,000 +/- (theoretical) years... the average person does live longer--- but that is not because the lifespan has increased but ONLY because our ability to manufacture drugs which prevent death by infection or allow transplants and other invasive surgeries possible--- SURVIVABLE. Penicillin is but one of those drugs which made living "long enough" to get cancer or any other "fatal disease" possible.

    SOONER OR LATER WE DIE FROM SOMETHING... make Aging (Dying) a crime and you eliminate all premature deaths?... That seems the logical conclusion to these illogical means!

    When does LIVING become more important than merely Surviving? I would much rather Live to be 50 than survive to be 90... of course, I consider Living "enjoying life" as opposed to a simple existence where my final days, weeks, months- Years? are spent lying in puddle of my own excrement.

  • Comment Link Diana Friday, 07 February 2014 18:41 posted by Diana

    Well, it's their decision but when I want to purchase some things, including tobacco, I'll just go across the street to Walgreens.

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