What Don Draper knew 50 years before CVS

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It had been so long since I had seen one of these machines that I had to photograph it. I was in Atlanta for the NAHU convention last summer at a restaurant and right after I took the photo someone asked me why I took it. “These are almost extinct”, I said, thankfully.

I remeber a time when these were everywhere, living in California, where you can’t smoke anywhere, this is a thing of the past. When the MadMen episode where Don Draper writes his fictional “Why I’m Quitting Tobacco” advertisement he states the obvious, “people can’t stop themselves from buying it”. It was the convenient placement of these machines that acted as a reminder to all of those smokers to keep on puffing.

So yesterday, when CVS Pharmacy announced they were going to stop selling cigarettes in their pharmacies, it was if another of these machines just disappeared. The familiar Ka-Chung sound of the lever followed by regular or menthol, soft pack or box, right there at the fingertips.

Reports estimate that CVS will loose about $2 Billion in revenue from this decision from the loss of tobacco sales, but the goodwill is just overwhelming. They changed the profile picture on all of their social media sights to this no smoking avatar just to drill their corporate goodness home.

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In a real world application this is not completely earth shattering, there are still many, many places to purchase cigarettes, but at least now you won’t be able to stop and pick them up along with your lung cancer medication.

There are roughly 480,000 people who die each year in the US from tobacco, roughly the population of Fresno or Sacramento. It’s $132 Billion in medical care cost (think about that next time your health insurance premium comes due). That a national pharmacy believes that the goodwill will out weigh the lost revenue is pretty significant.

In 1965 when the fictional Don Draper penned his missive saying, “We knew it wasn’t good for us but we couldn’t stop”, he was on to something. In the 50 years since, smoking rates have dropped from 42% to 18% of the population.

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We all know that smoking has become less socially acceptable. The kids of smokers are smarter than their parents in many cases and have resisted the urge to light up. Like many great changes in our world it just gets pushed along slowly over time. You did a good thing yesterday CVS, I hope their decision helps someone you love let go of cigarettes and maybe our children won’t see cigarette machines anywhere in their lifetime.