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WOONSOCKET, R.I. — Eighteen months after pulling tobacco products from its shelves, CVS Health is launching a five-year, $50-million initiative to help deliver the nation's first tobacco-free generation.
The "Be The First" initiative is funded by CVS Health and the CVS Health Foundation. The efforts will include comprehensive education, advocacy, tobacco control and healthy behavior programming in partnership with organizations positioned to tackle this public health challenge, according to CVS.
"We are at a critical moment in our nation's efforts to end the epidemic of tobacco use that continues to kill more people than any other preventable cause of death, and threatens the health and well-being of our next generation," said Troyen A. Brennan, chief medical officer for CVS Health. "Ensuring our youth stay tobacco-free requires increased education and awareness of healthy behaviors. We're partnering with experts across the public health community who have established best practices to help prevent tobacco use."
"And, by establishing more public-private partnerships to implement these strategies more aggressively, we can help increase the number of people leading tobacco-free lives and move us one step closer to delivering the first tobacco-free generation," Brennan added.
The partnerships include new and expanded tobacco education programming with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Scholastic Inc., as well as advocacy and tobacco-control initiatives with organizations such as the American Cancer Society and the National Urban League.
"Be The First" is directed at youth and young adults who use tobacco or who are at risk of becoming regular tobacco users, as well as the country's 3 million elementary school children.
It is also focused on continuing to support community-based cessation programs for adult smokers.
Five-year goals for the initiative include contributing to a 3-percent decline in the national youth smoking rate, a 10-percent decline in the number of new youth smokers and doubling the number of tobacco-free college and university campuses.
In addition, "Be The First" will support a campaign to encourage tobacco-free social media. The #BeTheFirst social media campaign will include a variety of shareable videos, graphics, and digital tools that enable youth to express their commitment to "be the first" generation to lead tobacco-free lives and counter social media messaging and imagery that promotes youth tobacco use.
"Tobacco use, especially among our youth, is one of the most pressing public health issues that we face today," said Eileen Howard Boone, senior vice president of corporate social responsibility and philanthropy at CVS Health, and president of the CVS Health Foundation. "We're pleased to bring additional resources and capabilities to the public health community and work collaboratively with our expert partners to help those who smoke to quit and to ensure that those who don't smoke never start."
To help guide the initiative, CVS Health is convening a national advisory group. Members include Aria Finger, CEO of DoSomething.org; Rosie Henson, senior vice president for prevention and early detection at the American Cancer Society; Barry Hummel Jr., Quit Doc Foundation; Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids; Harold Paz, chief medical officer for Aetna; Steve Schroeder, director of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at the University of California San Francisco; and Aaron Zeiler, the 2015 Frank Karel Fellow in Public Interest Communications.
Woonsocket-based CVS Health has approximately 9,600 retail pharmacies and more than 1,100 walk-in medical clinics.