(By Douglas Anderson, PharmD, DPh)
A recent study has revealed that 6% of patients receiving medications for chronic lung disorders also bought cigarettes at the same time. Cigarette smoking is well known as a cause of these diseases, and also increases the risk of heart disease, lung cancer, and head and neck cancer. Such conditions are among the leading causes of death in the United States.
It is contradictory for pharmacies to sell cigarettes as well as medications to combat chronic lung ailments. This not only impacts the health of the patient, but it is also contrary to the duties of the pharmacist, whose oath states that the “…welfare of humanity and relief of human suffering [are] my primary concerns.” In February 2014, CVS, the nation’s second largest pharmacy chain, announced that it would stop selling all cigarettes and other tobacco products. This may cost CVS some profits. True, customers can simply buy their cigarettes somewhere else, and this is unlikely to decrease tobacco use overall (grocery stores with pharmacies will probably continue to sell tobacco). But the pharmacy profession is moving away from a customer focus to a patient focus. To this end, CVS put the health of their patients and the sanctity of the pharmacist’s oath above profits, and this is commendable.
It is time for all pharmacies to do the ethical thing, and to stop selling tobacco products that destroy the health that pharmacists are called to protect.