Is the Tobacco Lobby Losing its Grip?

Thursday, February 06, 2014


This week, CVS– the biggest drugstore in the country–announced that it plans to stop selling cigarettes in all of its stores 7,000-plus stores across the country.

Yesterday, we looked at the marketing, branding, and public health implications of their decision. Today, we turn to the economic implications. What does this move mean for the tobacco industry? Are we witnessing the end of cigarette companies as we know them, or does this just signal a change in the market as we know it? 

Stanton Glantz is a medical professor at the University of California, San Francisco, where he specializes in tobacco policy.  He has been following the movements of the tobacco industry for years, and thinks CVS's decision is a significant one. 

"We're well on our way to meeting former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop's vision of a smoke-free society," says Glantz. 

When making this claim, Glantz points to the state of California, where adult smokers now makes up about 11 percent of the population, adding that many don't even smoke on a daily basis. 

"I think that if we were to really crank up the state's tobacco control program to where it used to be, we could essentially eliminate tobacco as a public health problem in three to five years," he says. "If the Obama Administration pursued similar policies we could eliminate it in maybe eight to 10 years in the whole country."

Glantz says President Obama should follow CVS's lead by allowing the Food and Drug Administration to take on a larger role in its effort to combat tobacco use by banning things like menthol and regulating e-cigarettes. But it's not just the government that needs to play a part, Glantz says.

See Also: Are E-Cigarettes Making it Cool to Smoke Again?

"The movies remain a huge problem—movies are the major place that kids get pro-tobacco media exposure," he says. "While it looked like the big studios were getting smoking out of their youth-rated films back in 2010, there's been a big rebound in recent years. We've been working to get movie smoking integrated into the rating system. We think an R rating for smoking, which would get [smoking] out of youth-rated films, would save around 1 million lives among current teenagers today."

How do listeners like you feel about smoking? Listen to the full interview to find out.


Stanton Glantz

Produced by:

Mythili Rao


T.J. Raphael

Comments [8]

Angel from Miami FL

When I smell cigarette smoke I'm transported to those office visits where the Pete Campbells, the remnants of the Mad Men days, used to go about their serious paper pushing in polyester suits and thick mustaches. I'm not saying post-nonsmoking office creatures are missing out on something 'cause they're not. But it would be cool to bottle those smells just so's people could time travel via their olfactory and whatnot.

Next up: the disappearance of that alcohol smell pre-1965 people seem to emit from their very pores, that hints at extended lunch breaks in dimly-lit restaurants.

Feb. 11 2014 09:45 AM
JB from NYC

Hey John...You spent three minutes of your show hearing from listeners on the question "We want to know where you buy your cigarettes." Really? Who cares where Bob in Ohio buys his cigarettes?

Your show comes on WNYC at 3pm just as I start my drive home and I wish WNYC would bring Fresh Air back to that time slot.

Feb. 06 2014 05:53 PM
Martina from CA

When will CVS stop selling alcohol??? Probably....NEVER!
As far as I know, hard liquor isn't a health benefit.

Feb. 06 2014 04:12 PM
Randy from Santa Clara, CA

I always hear people say nobody ever quits because of no access to buy at a certain location. Wrong I QUIT April 17, 2002 While on vacation in DC. I was staying with friends in Arlington Virginia. Every day I walked a few blocks to catch the Metro into DC, as I had no Car. Passing no Retail Businesses selling Tobacco, after 10 days of this I decided just to quit! I'm coming up on my 12th year smoke free!!!

Feb. 06 2014 03:50 PM
Maneki from NC

I quit a 2 pack a day cigarette habit 4 years ago with the help of Xanax. Now I have a Xanax addiction, but at least I don't smell bad.

Feb. 06 2014 03:28 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

CVS is probably making room for their medical marihuana section.

Feb. 06 2014 12:44 PM

Absolutely, thumbs up for CVS! Here's hoping others will follow!!!

I watched my dad struggle with macro-degeneration and emphysema ~ it isn't a pretty way to go. Of course, dying isn't easy, so he went on for years and years living in a wrecked body. Now the tobacco companies are selling to 2nd and 3rd world countries. I hope they get their pants sued off! Greed is no excuse for stupidity ~ or is it?

Feb. 06 2014 11:09 AM
Mair from Florida

Good for CVS. In the 1980's, Herman Miller, the office furniture company banned smoking everywhere on their property. As a result, Reynolds Tobacco Co. cancelled a multi-million dollar order. The CEO said the consequences didn't matter to him: he had watched his brother die from lung cancer and vowed that if he ever had the opportunity, he would do what he could to stop others from smoking.

As for myself, I quit on July 4, 1976--my personal independence day! I rarely dream about smoking any more, but I have never wanted to go back.

Feb. 06 2014 10:04 AM

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