I seldom have occasion to praise corporations, but the pharmacy chain CVS earned a gold star today with its announcement that its 7600 stores around the country will cease selling tobacco products by October 1. In a statement issued earlier today, President Obama also lauded CVS for setting "a powerful example" that will help advance "efforts to reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer, and heart disease, as well as bring down health care costs."
Being old enough to remember the 1964 Surgeon General's Report that first sounded the alert against smoking, I am amazed at how thoroughly our society has changed on this important issue. I can well remember how, when cities started outlawing smoking in public places, all sorts of people said it would never work, that people wouldn't conform, that bars and restaurants would go out of business. But here we are in 2014, and smoking - while still a very real social curse and threat to public health - is definitely in decline.
When I was young, smoking was normal. And it was "cool" and sexy. Jacqueline Kennedy, that queen of fashion and style, is said to have introduced ashtrays as White House events.(Talk about the Owl of Minerva taking flight at dusk!) Having reach its apex, smoking and the culture connected with it is now cascading to its nadir. And that is all to the good.
I shop at CVS. I buy all my prescription medications there. I've often stood on line at the cahier watching while someone purchases cigarettes. I'm very happy that's a sight I won't be seeing too much longer. Along with private gun ownership, smoking remains one of the great blights on our culture. Every move to ending it deserves to be applauded.
According to legend, when tobacco smoking was first described to King James I in the early 1600s, he was horrified and said it was something no Christian gentlemen should do. He should have been listened to!