CVS Health leaves U.S. Chamber over lobbying for tobacco in foreign countries; Paducah editor calls lobbying ‘thick-headed’

CVS Health announced it would end its membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over reports that the Chamber had lobbied foreign governments to ease restrictions on tobacco sales, Jacob Bogage reports for The Washington Post.

One of CVS’s 7,800 stores

Last year, CVS was the first major drug retailer to remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from its stores in an effort to be recognized as a health-care provider and not just a drug store.

“CVS Health’s purpose is to help people on their path to better health, and we fundamentally believe tobacco use is in direct conflict with this purpose,” David Palombi, spokesperson for CVS, said in a statement.

Last week, The New York Times reported that the chamber, the nation’s largest trade group, was “attacking foreign restrictions on smoking in public places, bans on menthol and slim cigarettes and tobacco advertising prohibitions,” Bogage notes.

Bogarge reports that seven Democratic senators have called the chamber’s efforts “craven and inconsolable” and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said CVS had made the right decision, writing, “We urge other members to stand up against the chamber’s deceptive and dismaying sell out to Big Tobacco and emulate CVS.”

The chamber called CVS’s departure “unfortunate” and said the reports about its tobacco positions were part of a “concerted misinformation campaign,” Bogage writes.

“To be clear, the chamber does not support smoking and wants people to quit,” the statement said. “We promote wellness nationally and globally and we sponsor smoking cessation plans for our own employees. At the same time, we support protecting the intellectual property and trademarks of all legal products in all industries and oppose singling out certain industries for discriminatory treatment.”

UPDATE, July 13: Paducah Sun Editor Steve Wilson says his “regard for CVS went up another notch. . . . The U.S. chamber’s lobbying on behalf of Big Tobacco strikes me as
thick-headed and not in the best interests of business overall. It also
runs counter to anti-smoking efforts of the state and local chambers. The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce strongly supports the effort to pass a
statewide smoking ban and join half the states that currently have one.
More than 90 percent of state chamber members favored such a law,
according to a survey last year.”

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