Monday, August 11, 2014

CVS loves you - as long as it's profitable.

In the movie Beetlejuice, there's a scene where the title character, Betelgeuse, is making nice with the recently deceased homeowners to win their confidence. One of the ways he does it is by using the old school wisdom "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

"We're simpatico! Look at this, we even shop at the same stores! We're like peas in a pod, the three of us! Look, you've been to Saturn! I've been to Saturn! Whoa... Sandworms. You hate 'em, right? I hate 'em myself!"

Oddly, it turns out, even though Betelgeuse wants to go to great lengths to assure the Maitlands they're natural allies, because they hate the same things, it eventually turns out he hasn't got their best interests at heart.  You were shocked, right? I was sure shocked.

I bring up this story, because CVS Pharmacy is in the midst of a similar operation. "Hey, come on! Why would you want to shop at some other drug store? We're simpatico! We're like brothers and sisters! Whoa... Smokers. You hate 'em, right? We hate 'em, too!"

Of course, CVS is quick to point out that the reason they're stopping all sales of tobacco products in their stores because they care about your health. Isn't that sweet? They know that lots of people have moved out of their childhood homes. Lots of people may not even have a mother and father left alive to tell them what to do any more, so, CVS willing to take on that responsibility for you. Since you're obviously too feeble to make these decisions for yourself, they'll help out.

After all, the CDC says as many as almost half a million US deaths per year are attributable to smoking - over 20% of all US deaths! Sure, that's a little suspicious, given that only about 18% of Americans smoke, you'd think we'd be running out a lot more quickly, right? Turns out, in many of these cause of death studies, anything that could be an effect of smoking is an effect of smoking. So, you can be a life-long non-smoker who also works around, say, gasoline or diesel engines, and once you're dead, you'll get counted as a smoking fatality! Hooray! At least you get to be one of the fatally cool kids after you die.

But, wait. CVS is still selling alcohol, aren't they? Isn't alcohol dangerous? You betcha. The CDC says almost a hundred thousand people in the US die, every year, or excessive drinking. I guess that's not enough to rouse CVS's concern. But, then, like second hand smoke supposedly kills some 42,000 people in the US per year, over 10,000 people die in auto accidents from second-hand drinking every year. Who knows how many others die of second-hand drinking, because "Sometimes daddy hits too hard" or "I didn't know it was loaded!"?  I guess the numbers are too small for Benevolent Father CVS to be concerned with, though.

So I guess alcohol is ok, but they're still selling "junk food" too, right? Sugary drinks, "snack cakes" that are little but several kinds of refined sugar held together by a thin paste of highly processed flour, salty fried snacks specifically designed to make you keep on eating whether you're hungry or not? Now, while it's almost impossible for us to accurately count the deaths that are contributed to by these sorts of products, some sources estimate the number of annual US deaths from these things top out at over fifteen million (also a bit of a suspicious number, but I digress) - well over thirty times as many as tobacco, even if the CDC's magic numbers are believed. And that's not enough to rouse CVS's concern for your health either?

Then, of course, there are fake medications like "Airborne" and entire fake kinds of medicine, like homeopathy, and CVS is still perfectly happy to take your money on those products as well. While things like that don't contribute to large scale deaths like the others mentioned here, they still do contribute, and in particularly nasty ways.  Various groups are looking in to whether someone oughtn't be criminally or at least civilly) liable for putting these kinds of products in the public marketplace and calling them "medicine", and whether they should or shouldn't be is largely a question of how you see the "free market" - but that's not the question here.  CVS is a pharmacy, which means I'll eat my hat if they don't know full well that the "medicines" they sell in these sections are placebos at best.  But, this company that's so concerned about your health that they can't even sell cigarettes any more doesn't feel the least bit bad about accepting big piles of dollars for those.

Now, I can't stand with those who find a way to make a claim that CVS hasn't got the right to stop selling tobacco products - of course they do. They have and should have a right to sell or not sell anything it's legal to sell.

The point where I take issue is where they pretend they're only making this change because they care about us, so darned much! and they just can't stand to sell something that might hurt us, when, in reality, they're perfectly willing to sell us any number of other pretty little death tickets that are more profitable and more widely accepted.

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