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CVS takes plunge but not far enough

CVS has taken the promised plunge – the shelves behind the check-out clerks are empty. You can't buy smokes here any more.

Not only is the world's largest health supplies emporium getting out of the cigarette business, but they are positioning themselves as a major smoking cessation advocate. The company website now features a link to an assortment of successful quit stories called "OneGoodReason". Customers who are quitting the cigarette habit are invited to add their "reasons" to the collection.

It would be interesting to learn how the company would react to entries from people who are quitting through vaping. CVS has resisted appeals to offer vaping supplies in lieu of cigarettes. Would they go so far as to refuse successful quit stories from vapers? If they were to post them along with the others, could the presence of vaping testimonials begin to turn the tide in favor of the company's acceptance of the product? It seems very probable that some enterprising vapers will put these questions to the test soon. The OneGoodReason feature is open to all, and easy to access.

The issue has not been ignored by the press, although coverage is marred by the usual errors, prejudices, and misinformation. A story distributed by the ABC website sports the headline "E-cigarette makers fuming over CVS Tobacco Ban." The article then goes on to interview, not a single e-cigarette maker, but instead two vaping advocates, Julie Woessner of CASAA (Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives) and Gregory Conley of the American Vaping Association (AVA), whose remarks are hardly "fuming", but in fact quite restrained under the circumstances. It's a nice pun ("fume" means "smoke" in some languages), but it's a pity to sacrifice accuracy to a gag line.

The article also quotes Erica Sward of the American Lung Association with the usual line about the need to wait. Sward also passed along the current misinformation regarding this week's CDC study of youth vaping, adding to the error by rounding up the percentage. She is quoted as saying that "half" the teen vapers plan to smoke combustible cigarettes – the percentage was 43.9%, and a reading of the actual study and survey reveals that this percentage included all who did NOT reply "definitely not", including those who responded "probably not", "probably", and "definitely", and also those who did not answer the question. That is hardly the same thing, but the press, and apparently the Lung Association, is not bothering to check the actual data, since the false reading supports their position.

Company spokesperson Mike DeAngelis stated that "CVS stores have never sold e-cigarettes and has no plans to sell them in the future.” Still, it would be good to see what effect a few vaping testimonials among the "OneGoodReason" entries would have on future plans. The CVS Customer Relations page also has an e-mail link, which may be used to direct feedback to the company.