Michael G. Bare, MPH
Program Coordinator
National LGBT Cancer Network 

As you may have heard CVS pharmacy announced that it will no longer be carrying cigarettes and tobacco products. The CEO of CVS, whose father smoked and died young from cancer, stated that “cigarettes and tobacco products have no place in a setting where healthcare is delivered. This is the right thing to do.” Absolutely!

What does this have to do with LGBT people you ask? Plenty. Tobacco is one of our community’s biggest health problems. Even the federal government knows that. The 2014 Surgeon General’s Report on smoking clearly defined LGBT peoples as a population experiencing tobacco disparities. LGBT people smoke at a 68% higher rate than the population at large.  Prevalence of smoking among LGBT youth is somewhere in the range of 38% to 59%, whereas prevalence of smoking among all youth is in the 28% to 35% range. (1)  Removing tobacco products from the shelves of CVS stores’ will hopefully assist in lowering rates of smoking by reducing the availability and convenience of tobacco products.  Of course smokers could walk or drive down the street and get there cigarettes elsewhere, but there is reason to believe that the lack of availability can help cut the smoking rate. This new study shows that lesbian, gay and bisexual adults were more likely to smoke in states that had more permissive smoking laws. So, restricting access to tobacco is an effective way to reduce the tobacco use of LGBT people. CVS’ new policy is a step towards reversing the trend where tobacco sales have been normalized throughout society. This will hopefully shift some of the attitudes and conversation around smoking, especially in the LGBT community.


But why stop there? With the diabetes epidemic growing, how can pharmacies that carry diabetes medications also justify carrying high sugar foods with little to no nutritional value? There is hope that CVS will inspire more shifts like this to enable a better health access and deliver paradigm.

Because of this action, and the potential prevention implications, the American Public Health Association has a petition to end tobacco sales in healthcare settings. I highly encourage you to sign and share this petition with your friends and loved ones!

(1) Lee JG, Griffin GK and Melvin CL. Tobacco use among sexual minorities in the USA, 1987 to May 2007: A systematic review. Tobacco Control. 2009; 18:275-282.


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