Interviews

Debate over CVS plans to stop tobacco sales

Is move a 'slippery slope'?

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," February 5, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: You want to light up? well, you better stock up, at least at CVS. The drugstore chain is going to stop selling tobacco products, all tobacco products, by October 1.

The president praising the decision -- he, of course, a former smoker. We think he`s a former smoker. But it was up to CVS to make that decision for shoppers. And did they make the right decision?

Melissa Francis wonders, what`s next, Ring Dings?

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: I would normally think that. Melissa is ridiculously thin.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: Nutritionist Tanya Zuckerbrot is very happy with this move.

So you`re worried, Melissa, that it`s a slippery, sugary slope.

MELISSA FRANCIS, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: They`re trying to say they`re a health care company, so it doesn`t make sense to sell cigarettes. I see that, but what`s next, Ding Dongs, Ring Dings?

(CROSSTALK)

FRANCIS: They sell diet pills. They sell alcohol. I mean, they sell -- so, why tobacco? Why make that the thing? Where do they go next with this?

CAVUTO: So you get the diet pills with the Ring Dings.

FRANCIS: I guess. I mean, those are terrible for you. They sell Hydroxycut and all that kind of stuff. They sell alcohol in stores. They sell sugar, they sell soda.

CAVUTO: CVS sells alcohol?

FRANCIS: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Boy, what have I been missing?

FRANCIS: Check this out.

CAVUTO: Tanya, what do you think?

TANYA ZUCKERBROT, FOUNDER, F-FACTOR DIET, LLC: I think that this is CVS finally waking up.

I mean, their brand is wellness. In the back, they have a pharmacy that sells vitamins and medications that help extend yours years, and in the front, they`re selling something that we know kills you. Cigarettes kill. So, for them to be a wellness company, this is them...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Yes, but I also know you`re a health freak, and now you`re saying, all right, we got rid of the cigarettes. Now we`re heading for the snack food aisle.

FRANCIS: Right. Yes.

ZUCKERBROT: Eventually, I think I would like to see a lot of positive changes made in this way.

CAVUTO: Aha!

ZUCKERBROT: Aha.

CAVUTO: This is all...

(CROSSTALK)

ZUCKERBROT: The difference is -- the difference is, Doritos in moderation have not been shown to increase the chances of morbidity, when we know even one cigarette causes damage.

CAVUTO: Oh, so you might give Doritos a pass?

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: For now.

ZUCKERBROT: For now, for now.

FRANCIS: What about alcohol?

ZUCKERBROT: Look, of course, alcohol is something that can be abused, but studies have shown that there are numerous health benefits to people who can drink alcohol in moderation.

The problem is, with cigarettes, even one, even with moderation, it causes lung cancer. It could lead to, you know, emphysema, to other diseases.

CAVUTO: You know what I think? I really do think that CVS was getting scaredy-cat here, with the health care law and the changes and everything else. It certainly didn`t look good in this environment -- I`m not a fan of smoking, trust me -- for them to be selling these products, when the nation is moving en masse into this health care law, bumps not withstanding.

And you don`t want to be one of the country's top five providers...

FRANCIS: But, Neil, they`re...

CAVUTO: ... in selling this stuff.

FRANCIS: It`s a public company. They`re beholden to their shareholders.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: I understand you, but where does it get a lot of its money?

Through a medical system that`s now all but been nationalized.

FRANCIS: But they have just cut out $2 billion in sales and everything else anyone else is going into CVS to buy cigarettes might buy.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: But they think they`re going to make more of that money back through the...

(CROSSTALK) CAVUTO: ... medical part, right?

ZUCKERBROT: And they will. First of all, CVS does over $100 billion in year in sales. We`re talking $2 billion in cigarette sales. That`s less than 2 percent of their total revenue.

FRANCIS: But people don`t go in and buy one thing.

ZUCKERBROT: It really is innocuous to them, as a big business.

And I think what will happen is that it`s going to cause people who go in to buy cigarettes now to think twice about that choice, because they`re no longer available. What does that mean?

(CROSSTALK)

FRANCIS: No, they will just go to Walgreens across the street and they will buy their cigarettes and their deodorant and their toothpaste.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Yes, what if the other guy still offer them?

ZUCKERBROT: I believe that their customers will become even more loyal customers, recognizing this is a pharmacy that really is dedicated to health and wellness.

They are making a very clear statement that CVS cares about public health more than their bottom line.

FRANCIS: I doubt...

ZUCKERBROT: That`s what they`re saying.

FRANCIS: I doubt there was a single person who ever passed a CVS and said I`m not going in because they sell cigarettes. I just don`t see that. It`s not a big enough issue. This is...

(CROSSTALK)

ZUCKERBROT: Well, that`s my point. It`s not going to diminish sales at all. And their customers will become more loyal.

CAVUTO: Well, the other guys who have this -- the other guys who have this, they were up. CVS went down.

FRANCIS: Right. That`s right.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: One day doesn`t a trend make, but...

FRANCIS: Their stocks went up and at the same time CVS went down, because a stock is judged on its ability to make money, and this took sales away, plain and simple.

ZUCKERBROT: But -- but CVS` sales from last year are up 19 percent. And they have made a huge initiative to promote themselves as a wellness brand, as a health care brand. And now they`re really consistent with their message.

FRANCIS: So, are they going to stop selling Hydroxycut and all these other diet pills that only raise your blood pressure and are incredibly dangerous?

I mean, you agree, right?

ZUCKERBROT: For those -- of course.

FRANCIS: Would you recommend anyone take those over-the-counter diet pills that are sitting on the aisle at CVS? They`re terrible for you.

CAVUTO: Well, she did say Doritos in moderation.

(LAUGHTER)

ZUCKERBROT: I mean, even the diet pills are FDA-regulated, so there`s nothing that is on that shelf that has a direct rate to morbidity the way that we know cigarettes do. Cigarettes have a seal on them that say cigarettes kill. We know cigarettes kill.

Over five million...

(CROSSTALK) CAVUTO: We`re just a moment away from slapping a label on Ring Dings -- This will kill you.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

ZUCKERBROT: Over five million died last year due to cigarette use.

CAVUTO: You`re holding back. No, I`m telling you, Tanya, you`re holding back. And you`re rubbing your hands together.

ZUCKERBROT: And the CDC -- the CDC shows that smoking cigarettes decreases your life span by 10 years.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: You`re salivating in the moment and you`re waiting to pounce again.

(CROSSTALK)

FRANCIS: It`s legal. Everyone has a legal right to buy cigarettes.

ZUCKERBROT: You know, cigarettes will always be legal...

CAVUTO: All right.

ZUCKERBROT: ... because the truth is that the lobbyists who, you know -- have too much power right now. The government is never going to ban cigarettes.

CAVUTO: All right, well, bottom line, they`re going to be gone and then we will see if the customers go with them. It`s too early to tell.

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