CVS Caremark Corporation, America’s second most popular drugstore chain, announced Wednesday that it will stop sales of tobacco products, including cigarettes and all other types of tobacco, at all of its 7,600 pharmacy locations across the U.S. effective October 1 of this year. The company plans to phase out its sale of the products throughout the year, with a goal of all sales being eliminated by the beginning of October. This decision will make the CVS Corporation the first major pharmacy company ever in the nation to halt its tobacco sales, and also the first major company to cease its sales of tobacco since Target in 1996.
This move is estimated to cost CVS an annual loss in sales of approximately $2 billion. The chain makes about $1.5 billion in tobacco sales each year, but it has decided that the benefit of eliminating health risks caused by selling tobacco products to customers outweighs its desire to make money off selling tobacco items. Although people may just go to other places to buy their tobacco for the time being, and the decision by CVS Corporation to stop sales of tobacco products may not lead to many kicking the smoking habit, CVS’s hope is that many companies will start to follow its lead in ceasing the sales of tobacco products, ultimately making them more difficult to obtain. In addition, as a result of no longer offering tobacco products for sale, CVS Corporation is planning to grow its smoking cessation efforts as part of orienting the company toward providing quality health care for its customers.
CVS’s decision is also expected to ultimately affect, and quite possibly hurt, the tobacco industry, as other pharmacy companies may soon be following the company’s lead in eliminating the sale of tobacco products altogether in its stores. In the states of California and Massachusetts, some cities have already taken the step to ban pharmacy tobacco sales as well. Walgreens, the number one pharmacy retailer, made a statement on Wednesday saying that it will continue to consider what kinds of products its customers want and what it will make available, but will provide smoking cessation products for the time being.
Although the move by CVS Corporation to stop sales of tobacco products will likely cost the company both money and patrons, CEO Larry Merlo justified the company’s decision, saying that cigarettes have no place in CVS, a store that provides health care to its customers, and commented that the illnesses some people are being treated for are being worsened by smoking.
The American Medical Association, The American Cancer Society, and The Department of Health and Human Services all praised CVS’s call on this issue, and President Barack Obama, a former smoker himself, also applauded CVS’s decision in a statement made on Wednesday, saying that CVS, as one of the nation’s largest retail pharmacies, is setting a “powerful example,” and helping aid in his administration’s health-related efforts, not only by decreasing smoking related illnesses, but also by decreasing the costs of health care. First Lady Michelle Obama, who encouraged her husband to quit, also hailed the decision, tweeting early Wednesday morning, “Thanks @CVS_Extra, now we can all breathe a little easier, and our families can live healthier. -mo”
By Laura Clark