Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids honors CVS Caremark's Merlo

WASHINGTON — The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has presented Larry Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Caremark, with its highest honor, the Champion Award, for his company’s leadership in the fight to reduce tobacco use in the United States.

CVS Caremark announced in February that it will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at its more than 7,600 stores nationwide by Oct. 1. CVS Caremark is the first national pharmacy chain to end tobacco sales. The company also announced that it will launch a national smoking-cessation program to help smokers quit.

 “CVS Caremark’s courageous decision represents one of the strongest actions any business has taken to address the enormous public health problems caused by tobacco use,” stated Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “It will reduce the availability of cigarettes and other tobacco products, sets a powerful example for other retailers to follow and sends an unmistakable message that tobacco use is incompatible with the health of our communities. This decision will save lives and move us closer to creating a tobacco-free generation.”

CVS Caremark’s decision comes as the United States marks the 50th anniversary of the first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, which was released in 1964. While the United States has cut smoking rates by more than half (from 42.4% in 1965 to 18.1% in 2012), tobacco use is still the nation’s No. 1 cause of preventable death.

According to the latest Surgeon General’s report released in January, tobacco use kills 480,000 Americans and costs the nation at least $289 billion in healthcare bills and other economic losses each year. The Surgeon General also found that 5.6 million kids alive today will die prematurely from smoking-caused disease unless current trends are reversed.

Merlo and CVS Caremark was honored at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ annual awards gala on Wednesday in Washington, D.C. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids also honored its Youth Advocates of the Year, young leaders in the fight against tobacco use.

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