The CVS Corporation announced that as of Oct. 1, it will stop selling cigarettes in all of its 7,600 stores across the U.S. It is the first national pharmacy to quit selling tobacco and related products, as it works to promote health.
As health care evolves and the pharmacy plays a larger role in the well-being of its customers, removing cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco from store shelves is necessary. The company is working with doctors and hospitals to promote health, so the decision to stop selling cigarettes is a logical step. President and CEO of CVS Corporation, Larry J. Merlo said, “Simply put, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”
Reducing the availability of cigarettes is a step in right direction in reducing disease and deaths caused by smoking. In addition to removing cigarettes from their store shelves, CVS is launching a smoking cessation program this spring. Information will be available on its website, pharmacies and CVS Minute Clinics throughout the U.S.
The company estimates that eliminating cigarettes will cost them nearly $2 billion in annual sales. It has a plan to boost sales in other areas, however, to offset the loss.
The question now becomes whether other drug stores will follow the CVS lead. Walgreen’s, the largest drug store chain in America, has responded by saying it has been evaluating the decision to stop selling tobacco and will continue to do so.
President Obama approves of the decision and appreciates the example that CVS is setting for other national retailers. The American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Heart Association (AHA) echoed Obama’s statement. The AMA told CBS News that by making it harder for people to buy tobacco, CVS is making a commitment to public health. The AHA also backs CVS’s decision. They have put out a call to action to reduce smoking, second-hand smoking and diseases that are caused by smoking.
In 2010, the American Pharmacists Association requested a ban on cigarette sales in all pharmacies, including grocery retailers, according to an article published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA.)
According to Euromonitor International, tobacco sales reached $107.7 billion in 2012. Drug stores only make up four percent of cigarette sales, while gas station make up as much as 50 percent. Therefore, it does not appear that when CVS stops selling them that it will have a big impact of the industry.
The actual number of people who smoke is dropping. The cost of cigarettes and the ban on smoking in public places are having an effect. Earlier this week an anti-smoking ad campaign was launched by the FDA. It is aimed at teenagers and is an effort to prevent young people from getting addicted to tobacco.
The CVS Corporation was ranked 13 on the Fortune 500 list for 2013. It reported $123 billion revenue in 2012, with a majority of its sales coming from pharmacy benefit management. Its decision to stop selling cigarettes in stores is reflective of the direction in which the company is moving. CVS is sharpening its focus on public health and made the decision based on promoting the well-being of its customers, despite the loss in sales it expects to see.
By Tracy Rose