By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

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CVS Health and the CVS Health Foundation are investing $50 million in an initiative to try and create a tobacco-free generation.

CVS Health Foundation President Eileen Howard Boone said on Tuesday that the company will take a three-pronged approach to try and reduce smoking among young people with the Be The First initiative:

  • funding innovative approaches to awareness and education, which will target 5 million young people;
  • aligning with other organizations to strengthen tobacco control policies and advocacy programs in all 50 states;
  • investing in early education and healthy behavior programs for kids, including a curriculum developed by Scholastic, Inc., targeting 3 million elementary school children.

Boone, also senior vice president of corporate social responsibility & philanthropy, CVS Health, said e-cigarettes would be included in the initiative.

She did not describe how the $50 million commitment from CVS Health and the CVS Foundation would be used.

A key part of the initiative will be targeted toward “anyone who uses social media,” she said, with materials for younger children, college-aged students, parents, school administrators and grandparents.

CVS will provide videos, graphics and digital tools to “counter social media messaging and imagery that promotes youth tobacco use.”

Boone said the idea developed after the company’s 2014 landmark decision to become the first national pharmacy chain to end retail sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

“The company’s decision to eliminate tobacco products from the stores obviously provided impetus for this campaign,” said CVS Health Chief Medical Officer, Troyen Brennan, M.D. in a company video.

A Be The First advisory group includes organizations DoSomething.org, the American Cancer Society, Quit Doc Foundation, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Aetna, and the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at the University of California San Francisco.

September 3, 2014 - New York, NY : Scenes from the CVS Health branding event in Bryant Park on Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, in midtown Manhattan, New York City. **THIS IMAGE IS NOT MODEL OR PROPERTY RELEASED** THIS IMAGE MAY HAVE BEEN DIGITALLY MANIPULATED**

Sept. 3, 2014 – A CVS Health branding event in Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, New York City. Photograph provided by CVS.

“Both the public health community and private sectors must work together if we are to advance a national strategy to end the tobacco epidemic, especially among our children,” said Matthew L. Myers, president, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids in a statement.

Be The First’s goals include contributing to a 3 percent decline in the national youth smoking rate, reducing the number of new young smokers by 10 percent and doubling tobacco-free college and university campuses. Boone said she was shocked that only 1,400 campuses across the country were tobacco-free.

The program also supports stop-smoking programs for adults who may expose children to tobacco use at home and in public, according to the company.

CVS is a pharmacy healthcare giant headquartered in Woonsocket, R.I., with employees in 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.