Is the Tobacco Lobby Losing its Grip?

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This week, CVS– the biggest drugstore in the country–announced that it plans to stop selling cigarettes in all of its stores 7,000-plus stores across the country.

Yesterday, we looked at the marketing, branding, and public health implications of their decision. Today, we turn to the economic implications. What does this move mean for the tobacco industry? Are we witnessing the end of cigarette companies as we know them, or does this just signal a change in the market as we know it? 

Stanton Glantz is a medical professor at the University of California, San Francisco, where he specializes in tobacco policy.  He has been following the movements of the tobacco industry for years, and thinks CVS's decision is a significant one. 

"We're well on our way to meeting former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop's vision of a smoke-free society," says Glantz. 

When making this claim, Glantz points to the state of California, where adult smokers now makes up about 11 percent of the population, adding that many don't even smoke on a daily basis. 

"I think that if we were to really crank up the state's tobacco control program to where it used to be, we could essentially eliminate tobacco as a public health problem in three to five years," he says. "If the Obama Administration pursued similar policies we could eliminate it in maybe eight to 10 years in the whole country."

Glantz says President Obama should follow CVS's lead by allowing the Food and Drug Administration to take on a larger role in its effort to combat tobacco use by banning things like menthol and regulating e-cigarettes. But it's not just the government that needs to play a part, Glantz says.

See Also: Are E-Cigarettes Making it Cool to Smoke Again?

"The movies remain a huge problem—movies are the major place that kids get pro-tobacco media exposure," he says. "While it looked like the big studios were getting smoking out of their youth-rated films back in 2010, there's been a big rebound in recent years. We've been working to get movie smoking integrated into the rating system. We think an R rating for smoking, which would get [smoking] out of youth-rated films, would save around 1 million lives among current teenagers today."

How do listeners like you feel about smoking? Listen to the full interview to find out.