Everyone should thank the CVS pharmacy chain, which will stop selling deadly cigarettes in its 7,600 stores -- and willingly suffer a $2 billion yearly loss of business. This selfless decision was honorable and noble. Target stores did likewise in 1996 -- thank heaven. We hope other U.S. retailers make the same conscientious change.
"I think CVS recognized that it was just paradoxical to be both a seller of deadly products and a health-care provider," Director Thomas Frieden of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention remarked.
President Obama, a former smoker, praised CVS for its stride "to reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer and heart disease, as well as bring down health-care costs."
Of course, most smokers simply will go elsewhere to buy cigarettes, but Dr. Richard Wender of the American Cancer Society said: "Every time we make it more difficult to purchase a pack of cigarettes, someone quits."
Cigarettes are America's worst preventable health menace. Although smoking has dropped from 43 percent of adults in 1965 to just 18 percent today, it nonetheless still brings early death to an estimated 480,000 Americans annually. It causes needless suffering and wastes billions on medical care, lost income and lost job productivity.
In effect, cigarette manufacturers are drug-pushers. Their profits depend on getting young people addicted to nicotine and keeping them hooked until the poisonous effects of smoke ruin their lungs and bring a wide array of painful ailments.
Across America, every level of government keeps waging an intensive crusade to curb the addiction. One effective tool is to raise cigarette taxes to prevent teens from becoming victims.
West Virginia has one of the lowest tax rates, just 55 cents per pack. Repeatedly, the Legislature has pondered adding $1, which would raise the Mountain State to the U.S. average. We hope it finally passes, because it will save lives and bring extra state revenue.
In 2010, a coalition of health groups declared:
"In West Virginia, a $1 cigarette tax increase would: Prevent 19,000 kids from becoming smokers -- spur 13,000 current adult smokers to quit -- save 9,500 residents from premature smoking-caused deaths -- save $458.7 million in health care costs."
And produce more than $100 million additional tax revenue, researchers added.West Virginia has the nation's worst rate of smoking, a pointless habit that kills and sickens many. CVS and Target took noble steps to help. The Legislature should do its part.