Last week, CVS Caremark changed its name to CVS Health and pulled all tobacco products from its shelves. Way to go, CVS. That’s a great move. And if CVS really wants to lead the charge toward better health care, there is an even more important step: It needs to tackle the grocery aisle next.
In my local CVS—just steps away from the pharmacy—the shelves and refrigerators are stocked with milk, butter, beef jerky, ice cream, frozen pepperoni pizza, and other unhealthful foods.
Beef jerky and the milk refrigerator are adjacent to the pharmacy.
Cheese and pizza are the top two source of saturated fat in the American diet—with other meat and dairy products rounding out the top 10. These high-fat foods not only contribute to our obesity rates, but also our country’s leading cause of death: heart disease. According to the CDC, heart disease alone kills more Americans annually than all forms of cancer combined.
With 7,000 locations across the country, there is a huge opportunity for CVS to improve national health standards. Instead of selling artery-clogging meat and dairy products, it should offer heart-healthy grab-and-go snacks, like clementines, bananas, and hummus. Leading by example and ceasing the sale of dairy and meat products can turn CVS into CardioVascularSaviors.
The pharmacy is just to the left of these cases of ice cream and frozen pizza
Want to see nutrition resources at CVS Health? Tweet a link to our Nutrition Rainbow to @CVS! You can also find your local CVS on Yelp and leave a review, letting the store know that you admire the progress, but as long as it’s offering health care along with unhealthful foods, there’s incongruity in its message.
Just in time for World Cancer Day this week, the World Health Organization released a new statistic stating that cancer cases worldwide are expected to increase by 70 percent over the next 20 years. This is grim news, but by eliminating just two things, cigarettes and processed meat, you can decrease your risk of 23 types of cancer.
Click image to enlarge:
CVS made strides in cancer prevention this morning by announcing plans to cease the sale of cigarettes by October. This is evidence that the massive shift in conversation surrounding tobacco products is working. Changes like this will save countless lives. But in order to reverse growing cancer rates, we need to focus our attention on the cancer-causing product of our generation: processed meat.
Nearly everyone knows that smoking causes cancer, evidenced by the fact that you can’t light up a cigarette in schools, bars, airports, office buildings, or hospitals. However, the lack of public awareness about diet’s role in cancer isn’t limited to just the United States. In 2009, nearly 73 percent of Canadians were unaware of the link between diet and cancer. A recent U.K. survey shows that 49 percent of citizens are in the dark.
If the public knew the direct correlation between processed meat and cancer, hot dogs and sausage wouldn’t be in school lunches, hospital cafeterias, or at every ballpark stadium. A study published in December showed that the link between animal products and cancer was as strong as the link between smoking and cancer. A review published in the journal Nutrition Research elaborated on how meat can cause colorectal cancer. In fact, the research linking meat and cancer goes all the way back to 1907.
Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man have morphed into images of body bags and teens yanking out their teeth with pliers. Let’s ignite the same change in processed meat—the Oscar Mayer Wiener becomes a colostomy bag, and hot dog eating competitions turn into a hospital morgue. CVS should ban hot dogs, spam, and pepperoni.
Hopefully by World Cancer Day 2015, both processed meat and tobacco will be off the shelves.
The American Cancer Society’s annual Great American Smokeout takes place this week, shifting the public’s focus toward cancer prevention. Cigarettes are an easy target, since their link to cancer is well-publicized, and the vast majority of smokers already want to quit.
But despite the drop in smoking, cancer rates are still high. So we need to go several steps further. The next culprits are processed meat products, such as bacon, hot dogs, and deli meats. Just as tobacco attacks the lungs, processed meats attack the digestive tract.
The World Cancer Research Fund says the link between processed meat and cancer is so strong that it should be avoided completely. The EPIC study results published earlier this year show that eating processed meat is linked with a 44 percent increased risk of death. A recent study from the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that colorectal cancer survivors who consume large amounts of processed meat are at a 29 percent higher risk of death from general causes and a 63 percent higher risk of death from heart disease.
While tobacco products have been the object of labeling efforts designed to maximize risk awareness, processed meat products have gone under the radar. Mayor Bloomberg just signed new legislation raising the legal purchasing age of cigarettes from 18 to 21. If he and other politicians truly have their constituents’ health in mind, they will make the same efforts to label and restrict the purchase of hot dogs and other processed meat products. But consumers certainly don’t have to hold out for a new law to can the cigarettes, scrap the bacon, or share a healthful recipe with some friends. Positive change can happen anytime—so start now and help lead the cultural shift towards better health.