The CVS Health Corporation announced it was resigning from the United States Chamber of Commerce Tuesday. The decision came shortly after the chamber and its foreign affiliates were taking on a global lobbying campaign against antismoking laws.
CVS said the lobbying activity counteracts their mission to improve public health; the company stopped selling tobacco products in its stores last year.
“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 R. Palombi, a senior vice
president at the company said in a statement, “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 campaign also runs counter to efforts by some of its members. There are four health care companies that serve on its board that support antismoking programs: Anthem, the Health Care Service Corporation, the Steward Health Care System of Boston and the Indiana University Health system.
It was reported last week that the chamber and its foreign affiliates had targeted constraints on smoking in public spaces, bans on menthol, advertising restrictions, excise tax increases, plain packaging and graphic warning labels.
Their efforts put them in direct opposition to the World Health Organization’s efforts to curtail tobacco use world-wide. The head of the chamber, Thomas J. Donohue personally has been involved in the campaign.
The chamber upholds its efforts globally saying it strives to defend its members’ business interests.
“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.
The chamber has not disclosed why it opposes public health steps such as restricting smoking in public places, which it named an “extreme” measure when it was proposed in Moldova.
CVS’ decision to leave the chamber is the latest criticism of the organization.