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CVS Health’s Be the First effort enters third year

BY David Salazar

CVS Health’s multi-year anti-smoking campaign Be The First is headed into its third year, with the company committing $10 million in 2018 to support smoking prevention and education efforts nationwide. The five-year, $50 million effort from the Woonsocket, R.I-based company aims to create the first tobacco-free generation.

“After just two years, we’re encouraged by our contributions to a continuing decline in youth smoking rates, however far too many young people are still using a variety of harmful tobacco and nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes and vapes, that facilitate initiation of tobacco use,” CVS Health chief medical officer Troyen Brennan said. “By reducing the number of people that are exposed to tobacco, we can reduce the prevalence of tobacco-related diseases including lung cancer, heart disease and stroke, and make a significant impact on the health of our next generation.”

Since launching Be the First in 2016, the company has funded programs from such organizations as the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco Free kids and Truth Initiative. This year some of the beneficiaries will be the play2Prevent lab at Yale’s Center for Health & Learning Games, as well as the Stanford University School of Medicine.

At Yale, the center has developed smokeScreen, a video game app that allows players to face various challenges that teens face, including a focus on choices around smoking and tobacco use. It also provides smoking prevention and cessation resources. Stanford’s Tobacco Prevention Toolkit is an online resource for anyone who works with youth, offering eight modules whose activities are focused on lessons and initiatives focusing on e-cigarettes and vapes.

“The grant from the CVS Health Foundation on this critical initiative not only allows a platform to expand the reach of our work with serious video game interventions, but also holds the promise of significantly impacting the problem of cigarette smoking and the rapidly emerging concern of e-cigarette use in adolescents,” said Lynn Fiellin, director of the Yale Center for Health & Learning Games.

The CVS health Foundation said it would build on existing partnerships with Truth initiative and the American Cancer Society to increase the number of college campuses that are smoke-free. It said that grants will be available for more than 70 additional colleges and universities looking to create smoke-free campuses.

“In the two years since we introduced Be The First, we’ve seen very good progress, but we know there is much more to be done in schools, on college campuses and in our communities,” CVS Health Foundation president Eileen Howard Boone said. “We recognize that by collaborating with experts from academia and the public health community and aggressively investing in innovative strategies to reduce smoking and tobacco use, we can protect our youth from this preventable health risk and bring us one step closer to realizing our goal of a tobacco-free generation.”

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