Two sides of tobacco

Published 10:51 am Thursday, February 6, 2014

When Vicksburg’s newest pharmacy opens, there won’t be a single smoke, a sniff of snuff or chaw of chew in sight.

CVS, the country’s highest-volume pharmacy retailer, announced Wednesday that it would cease selling all tobacco products by October, while the local store at Halls Ferry and North Frontage roads is not set to open until sometime in 2015.

This, I’m fairly certain, will have little to no effect on Vicksburg’s tobacco users other than eliminating one possible place to pick up accoutrements for a quick nicotine fix.

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It does, however, spell the beginning of the end for the pharmacy industry’s greatest contradiction.

CVS CEO Larry Merlo made the bold statement on Wednesday but it leaves me craving more.

“We’ve come to the conclusion that cigarettes have no place in a setting where health care is being delivered,” he said.

How could it have taken until February 2014 to come to the conclusion that “carcinogens in the front and cancer medication in the back” isn’t the best business model?

I’ve never understood why pharmacies sell tobacco products. I understand its somewhat of a tradition left over from when it was more rare than not to see someone without a cigarette in hand.

Those, of course, were the days when Pall Mall advertised smoking though “an all natural tobacco filter,” and Camel relied on a slogan that claimed they were tops among doctors.

But in an age where we are constantly bombarded with advertising that tells us how bad tobacco is and stories about how many Marlboro Men have died of cancer, we should know better than to get tobacco mixed in with our health care.

That’s not to say tobacco and its addictive component nicotine are all evil.

Sure they are linked to cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.

But studies have shown that nicotine might reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s in elderly people. Some patients in medical studies have even regained lost cognitive abilities after being given nicotine.

Since nicotine is toxic, scientists are working on a nontoxic substance that mirrors the effects of nicotine for these patients.

In other studies, nicotine has shown promise in treating depression, diabetes and ulcerative colitis.

Now if we could only work out a nontoxic version of nicotine, we might see some tobacco-derived products that they could put behind the counter at CVS.

Josh Edwards is a reporter. He can be reached by email at