Buying a pack of cigarettes while picking up your blood pressure meds or inhaler sounds crazy, right? Unfortunately many people just can’t quit – regardless of health issues directly related to their smoking habit.

CVS is proactively taking steps to help smokers quit by no longer selling tobacco products. “As one of the largest retailers and pharmacies in America, CVS Caremark sets a powerful example, and today’s decision will help advance my administration’s efforts to reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer, and heart disease, as well as bring down health care costs — ultimately saving lives and protecting untold numbers of families from pain and heartbreak for years to come,” President Obama recently said in a statement.

Of course, discontinuing cigarette sales comes at a price. CVS estimates it will take an annual loss of $2 billion from tobacco shoppers — $1.5 billion in tobacco sales and the rest from other products tobacco shoppers purchase while in the store.

So how many of us will support the retailer because of their decision? CVS must be commended for putting public health ahead of their bottom line and recognizing the need for pharmacies to focus on supporting health and wellness instead of contributing to disease and death. Let’s face it, “doing the right thing” isn’t usually on the agenda when money is lost. I tip my cap to CVS.

More people die of lung cancer each year (160,000) than from breast, colorectal, prostate and ovarian combined. In 2011, published findings reported evidence that low dose chest CT screening reduced lung cancer mortality by 20% resulting in recently issued guidelines for annual CT screenings of current and former smokers aged 55-80 with a history of smoking equivalent of a pack a day for 30 years, or 2 packs a day for 15 years. It’s about time!

Lung cancer screening can prevent as many as 20,000 deaths per year by detecting lesions earlier, allowing for minimally invasive surgery to get patients back to their normal routine quicker. This is a huge step in the fight against lung cancer because the recommendation requires insurance companies to cover preventive screenings which will encourage more people to get screened.

Make sure you always know your options and remember there are no dumb questions. Call your insurance provider to see if they cover a screening CT and discuss this news with your doctors.

The best way to prevent lung cancer is to never smoke or stop smoking now. If you are still smoking, talk to your doctor about ways to help you quit smoking.

Dr. Presser is a board certified thoracic surgeon specializing in minimally invasive procedures. He is an advocate for prevention and encourages lung cancer screenings. Dr. Presser welcomes your questions and can be reached at (760) 424.8224. 

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