CVS Health quits US Chamber of Commerce over stance on smoking

CVS Health announced Tuesday that it is resigning from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce after learning the chamber and its foreign affiliates were part of a global lobbying campaign against anti-smoking laws, according to The Seattle Times.

CVS stopped selling tobacco products in its stores last year. The national pharmacy chain said the lobbying activity opposed its mission to improve public health.

"We were surprised to read recent press reports concerning the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's position on tobacco products outside the United States," David Palombi, a senior vice president at CVS, said in a statement, according to The Seattle Times. "CVS Health's purpose is to help people on their path to better health, and we fundamentally believe tobacco use is in direct conflict with this purpose."

"We believe the chamber has advocated for many important causes over the years, and we thank them for their leadership on these issues," he added. "Given the leadership position we took last year in removing tobacco products from our stores, however, we have decided to withdraw our membership in the chamber."

The New York Times reported last week that the chamber and its foreign affiliates aimed lobbying efforts against restrictions on smoking in public, bans on menthol and slim cigarettes, advertising restrictions, excise tax increase, plain packaging and graphic warning labels, and especially in developing countries. These efforts come in direct conflict with the World Health Organization's efforts to scale back tobacco use on a global scale.

Additionally, the campaign runs in opposition to efforts by some of its members, including four healthcare companies that serve on its board — Anthem, Health Care Service, Steward Health Care System of Boston and Indianapolis-based Indiana University Health — which all support anti-smoking programs.

The chamber has defended its global lobbying campaign against anti-smoking restrictions as a protection of its members' business interests, according to The Seattle Times.

"It's unfortunate that a concerted misinformation campaign about the U.S. Chamber's position on smoking has resulted in a company leaving our organization," the chamber said in a statement. "To be clear, the chamber does not support smoking and wants people to quit. At the same time, we support protecting the intellectual property and trademarks of all legal products in all industries and oppose singling out certain industries for discriminatory treatment."

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