On Target to Holding the U.S. Chamber Accountable for Its Pro-Tobacco Stance

By Emma Stockton, Public Citizen intern

Tobacco continues to be the leading cause of preventable death so it’s good to see some health-related companies are better aligning the products on their shelves to their missions by ending tobacco sales. CVS Health is a recent example of a large, national chain store to end tobacco sales in favor of promoting a family friendly, healthy image. Though some companies, such as Walgreens and Walmart, continue to sell tobacco alongside products and services to improve the health of their customers, Target took the step to end tobacco sales nearly 20 years ago, in 1996.

Target can again be a health leader among companies by cutting its ties to U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

After a recent series of New York Times articles revealed that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is promoting tobacco abroad, CVS Health left the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The U.S. Chamber defended its global push to weaken or block tobacco regulations in blatant disregard for public health in a NYT Letter to the Editor, describing its efforts as intellectual property protectionism, but CVS Health saw through the smoke the Chamber was blowing and cut its ties to the trade association and lobbying behemoth.

CVS Health is not the only company to cut ties with the Chamber, though it is the first to vocally do so over the Chamber’s attempts to hinder foreign countries from putting in place health and safety regulations regarding tobacco sales and use. There are a growing number of companies that have parted ways with the trade association over policy schisms and a nascent acknowledgment that, as described by the Times, “[u]nder the leadership of Mr. Donohue [President of U.S. Chamber of Commerce], the chamber’s strategy has become increasingly controversial in recent years.” The Chamber’s holding of policy stances eschewed from its members’ has lost it some big names including Apple, Yahoo!, and Skansa in just the past few years.

Target has already demonstrated it is willing to take principled stances when it stopped selling tobacco products. Target led the way in stepping away from tobacco sales and now it’s time for the company to take the next step and join CVS Health by and withdrawing its membership from the Chamber. Cancelling Target’s membership with the Chamber will help send a message not just to the Chamber but also to its other member companies that the trade association’s positions are out of touch.

Target needs to hear from its customers to encourage the company to continue in its health leadership by reexamining its membership to the Chamber and what that says about the company.