CVS Caremark announced plans to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in early February. The chain hopes to completely remove these products from its shelves by October of this year. The decision is a bold one and one that I'm sure many have scoffed at. It's a drugstore, after all; it makes sense to sell cigarettes, especially since the store stands to lose $2 billion in sales after the switch.
CVS's efforts have sparked politicians across the country to voice similar opinions and make broad goals to disallow smoking entirely. Although the store's and politicians' intentions are admirable, the government should not be able to stop people from smoking.
The negative long-term health effects of smoking are obvious; we've all heard them before: lung cancer, throat cancer, heart disease, the list goes on. Even death is a realistic outcome, as smoking has proven to cause more deaths each year than HIV, drug use, alcohol use, car injuries and firearm-related injuries combined.
If you want an effective incentive to quit smoking, just watch the commercials that show former smokers with holes in their throats. Smoking is also annoying in social situations; the smell of smoke gets stuck in hair, clothes, cars and furniture, and smokers constantly need to step outside to relieve their urge.
In a perfect world, smoking wouldn't exist. But in today's society, the government should not have the option to legally ban the act, in general. No matter how much government involvement you advocate for, there are some matters in which it should not interfere, and smoking is one of them for many reasons.
The unfortunate truth is that cigarettes give our country a lot of money. CVS's projected loss in revenue is but a small portion of what the entire country stands to lose if cigarettes were no longer able to be bought and sold freely.
Although the annual economic costs associated with smoking are enormous — the cost, including direct medical care and lost productivity due to secondhand-smoke exposure, totaled over $289 billion between 2009 and 2012 — the economic loss of stopping cigarette sales is probably much more.
I won't waste your time by saying that smoking is an addiction, and people need their fix. That is true, but there are programs and other ways to quit. However, people with other types of addictions, mainly drug and alcohol dependencies, have taken up smoking as a way to stay sober. I would imagine the fight against relapsing would be much harder if these addicts didn't have cigarettes to temporarily replace their main vices.
America prides itself on being the land of the free. There are countless circumstances where this saying doesn't always ring true, but the idea is still important. It's the same argument many pro-choice supporters make for abortion, another controversial discussion. Smoking is our own personal choice; just because it's bad for us doesn't mean we shouldn't have the option to do it.
Cigarettes are just one bullet point on a list of many things that are harmful to our bodies and/or the environment. Alcohol, marijuana, other drugs, cars and guns are some potentially dangerous, damaging factors that are currently legal in the United States. Statistics prove that all of what I mentioned can cause severe damage, just like cigarettes can.
Even consuming too much sugar comes with health risks, but former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to disallow large sugary drinks was shot down, rightfully so. There are definitely differences between cigarettes and the other items on the list, and the extent of consequences are not always equal, but it is still undeniable that they all cause problems. It would be hypocritical to allow the sale of these things but not cigarettes.
A typical argument in support of taking cigarettes off the shelves is that they induce health problems in not only smokers, but also those nearby through secondhand smoke. While secondhand smoke is a big problem, steps have already been taken to ameliorate the situation as much as possible.
Indoor smoking has been banned across the country, smoking in public parks and playgrounds has been banned in New York City, and smoking close to hospitals has been restricted in New York. Efforts to protect non-smokers will continue to go into effect, so cutting out smoking completely is currently unnecessary.
Even big corporations like CVS have a right to their opinion and they should halt selling products they don't want or agree with. But when the government steps in and makes the move mandatory, we need to start reevaluating our freedoms as individuals.