WASHINGTON, May 15, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids tonight will present Larry J. Merlo, President and Chief Executive Officer of CVS Caremark Corporation, with its highest honor, the Champion Award, for his company's leadership in the fight to reduce the devastating toll of tobacco use in the United States.
CVS Caremark announced in February that it will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at its more than 7,600 stores nationwide by October 1. CVS Caremark is the first national pharmacy chain to end tobacco sales. The company also announced that it will launch a national smoking cessation program to help smokers quit.
"Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS/pharmacy is the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health," Mr. Merlo said in announcing the decision. "Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose."
"CVS Caremark's courageous decision represents one of the strongest actions any business has taken to address the enormous public health problems caused by tobacco use," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "It will reduce the availability of cigarettes and other tobacco products, sets a powerful example for other retailers to follow and sends an unmistakable message that tobacco use is incompatible with the health of our communities. This decision will save lives and move us closer to creating a tobacco-free generation."
CVS Caremark's decision comes as the U.S. marks the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health, which was released in 1964. While the U.S. has cut smoking rates by more than half (from 42.4 percent in 1965 to 18.1 percent in 2012), tobacco use is still the nation's number one cause of preventable death.
According to the latest Surgeon General's report released in January, tobacco use kills 480,000 Americans and costs the nation at least $289 billion in health care bills and other economic losses each year. The Surgeon General also found that 5.6 million kids alive today will die prematurely from smoking-caused disease unless current trends are reversed.
Mr. Merlo and CVS Caremark will be honored at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' annual awards gala tonight in Washington, DC. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids will also honor its Youth Advocates of the Year, young leaders in the fight against tobacco use.
Mr. Merlo has more than 30 years of pharmacy health care experience, beginning his career as a pharmacist at People's Drug, which ultimately became part of CVS/pharmacy. Over the years, he has held positions of increasing responsibility, including president of CVS/pharmacy.
Under his leadership, CVS/pharmacy generated industry-leading sales and profit results through both organic growth and acquisitions. As President and CEO of CVS Caremark, Mr. Merlo advocates for the profession of pharmacy and the value it provides the health care system to improve health outcomes and lower overall health care costs.
For more information on the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, visit www.tobaccofreekids.org.
SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids