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      Kicking the habit as communities and companies push smoke-free environments

      Numbers from the American Heart Association show nearly 46 million Americans smoke. Now, one of the nation's largest drugstore chains is banning cigarettes and tobacco-related items in its stores.

      CVS Caremark announced Wednesday that the chain will no longer sell tobacco products in any of its 7,700 stores nationwide, in addition to changing its name to CVS Health.

      The ban will likely cost the corporation $2 billion in annual sales, but company officials say it's worth the loss. The goal is to make a difference in the health of all Americans, according to company officials.

      "There's no amount of tobacco use that can be considered safe," said Larry Merlo, President and Chief Executive Officer of CVS Health.

      That is something many people far from Wall Street agree on.

      "We know the risk of smoking, and today most places are going smoke free," added Blakely Roof, Assistant Director of Marketing for Conway Medical Center.

      Conway Medical Center offers Quit Smart, a smoking cessation class for anyone wanting to kick the habit.

      "It gives you the tools to be able to quit," said Roof. "You come in and you want to quit, but need a little more instruction or push to make it to that next step."

      Many employers are now asking people to take smoking cessation classes like the one offered at CMC, and that is just the latest in the trend of smoke-free environments.

      Coastal Carolina University became a smoke-free campus in August. For a list of smoke-free communities in our area, click here. Meanwhile, an initiative to make the City of the Conway 100 percent smoke-free in the workplace and in public environments began getting support online and in the community.

      "I think it would make it a little more difficult to do it in public, and I think it would encourage people to be less likely to want to do it," according to Darrell Pope, a Conway resident since 1998.

      The Breathe Clean Conway initiative is sponsored by the Wellness Council for South Carolina. The topic will be back before Conway City Council this month to hash out ideas of what should be included in a potential smoke-free ordinance.

      For more information on the Quit Smart cessation classes offered at CMC, or to register, call HEALTHREACH at (843) 234-5019.