President Obama says he applauds CVS Caremark for deciding to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in its stores, and instead begin a national campaign to help millions quit smoking.
"As one of the largest retailers and pharmacies in America, CVS Caremark sets a powerful example," Obama, a former smoker himself, said in a statement. "Today’s decision will help advance my administration’s efforts to reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer, and heart disease, as well as bring down health care costs – ultimately saving lives and protecting untold numbers of families from pain and heartbreak for years to come."
Obama said he congratulates – and thanks – CVS CEO Larry Merlo, its board of directors, "and all who helped make a choice that will have a profoundly positive impact on the health of our country."
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called the move to drop tobacco products an "unprecedented step in the retail industry" and said CVS' new national smoking cessation program "will have considerable impact."
She said she last month called on businesses, local and state governments and the faith community to join what she called the administration’s "sustained effort to make the next generation tobacco-free."
"We need an all-hands-on-deck effort to take tobacco products out of the hands of America’s young generation, and to help those who are addicted to quit," Sebelius said. "Today’s CVS Caremark announcement helps bring our country closer to achieving a tobacco-free generation. I hope others will follow their lead in this important new step to curtail tobacco use."
Press Secretary Jay Carney -- who noted that he used to buy "a lot" of cigarettes at CVS, called it a "great thing."
"We obviously think this is an important decision because of the impact that smoking can have on the nation's health and on especially American children," Carney said. "So the president is, like I, a reformed smoker, and I think he recognizes like everyone who's quit recognizes it's not an easy thing to do, but it's the right thing to do for your own health, for your family and for the nation's health."
Carney wouldn't say if Obama had used his pen or phone -- as he's said he will increasingly do to maneuver around Congress -- telling reporters to talk to CVS.
"I think that they should be commended for the decision they're taking," he said.
First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted her congratulations:
Thanks @CVS_Extra, now we can all breathe a little easier, and our families can live healthier. –mo — FLOTUS (@FLOTUS) February 5, 2014