CVS said Monday that the partnerships and programs — funded through CVS Health and the CVS Health Foundation — will roll out during 2017 and continue the Be The First campaign’s focus on anti-smoking education, tobacco-control advocacy and healthy behavior programming.
“Tobacco continues to be the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, yet 2,100 youth and young adults still become daily cigarette smokers,” Troyen Brennan, chief medical officer for CVS Health, said in a statement. “CVS Health recognizes that by bringing together experts in the public health community and aggressively implementing strategies to reduce tobacco use, we have the opportunity to deliver the first tobacco-free generation.”
Launched last March, Be The First is aimed at youths and young adults who smoke or are at risk of becoming regular tobacco users; the nation’s 3 million elementary school children who may become future tobacco users without early tobacco education; and adult smokers who expose children to tobacco use.
CVS said that it has reached almost 5 million young people with anti-smoking programming and has helped 20 colleges and universities pursue 100% smoke- and tobacco-free campus policies since introducing Be The First.
“In the year since we introduced Be The First, we’ve seen very good progress, but we know there is much more to be done in schools, on college campuses and in our communities,” stated Eileen Howard Boone, president of the CVS Health Foundation. “We’re pleased to sustain this momentum by expanding partnerships with best-in-class organizations and identifying new partners that will bring the expertise needed to move us one step closer to the first tobacco-free generation.”
Among this year’s Be The First efforts, the CVS Health Foundation is funding a new online training program — part of its five-year, $5 million commitment to support the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — that will offer courses to train youth and adults to become tobacco prevention ambassadors. The courses will focus on how tobacco affects youth, including the growing availability of candy-flavored e-cigarettes and cigars, and ways for people to advocate for tobacco-free communities.
The announcement of the new resource coincides with Kick Butts Day on March 15, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids’ national day of activism that urges youth to speak up and mobilize their communities to fight tobacco use.
“CVS Health has shown tremendous leadership in helping people lead tobacco-free lives by bringing the public health and private sector communities together to work on this public health crisis,” commented Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and a member of CVS’ Be The First national advisory council. “We look forward to continuing to work with CVS Health to improve the lives of America’s children and young adults and win the fight against tobacco for good.”
A key goal of Be The First is to double of the number of tobacco-free educational institutions in the United States. This year, the CVS Health Foundation and the American Cancer Society will again look to spur colleges and universities to adopt smoke- and tobacco-free campus policies by supporting more than 50 new schools in their tobacco control efforts. Interested schools can apply online at www.cancer.org/tfgci.
This spring, the CVS Health Foundation and the Truth Initiative, which leads the nation’s largest youth tobacco prevention campaign, plans to unveil an expanded partnership to help Historically Black Colleges and Universities and community colleges nationwide implement 100% tobacco-free policies.
In May, CVS Health and the American Lung Association’s Lung Force program plan to launch an easy way for custmers to spread tobacco-free messaging in their communities and leverage tobacco-free resources for their towns, schools and public areas to help in the fight against lung cancer. And later this year, the CVS Health Foundation, through a partnership with the National Cancer Institute, will invest nearly $1 million to address smoking cessation in the oncology setting at several of the nation’s leading cancer hospitals.
Last month, CVS Health reported that the removal of tobacco products from its drug stores over two years ago continues to impact retail cigarette sales. A study from the CVS Health Research Institute found that dropping tobacco from all CVS Pharmacy stores cut the number of cigarette purchases across all retail settings, with an even greater impact on those who bought cigarettes at CVS locations. CVS’ plan to cease the sale of tobacco products was announced February 2014.