CVS to stop selling tobacco products, set to lose $2 bln

Near empty cigarette shelves are seen at a CVS store in New York February 4, 2014. (Reuters / Eric Thayer)RT News

America’s second-largest drugstore chain announced on Wednesday that it will stop selling tobacco products in all its stores nationwide this year.

The decision by CVS Caremark will remove cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco from the company’s 7,600 stores by October 1, as it continues to expand its health care operations. CVS stated it will become the first national pharmacy chain to phase out tobacco products.  

“Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS/pharmacy is the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health,” said CVS President and CEO Larry J. Merlo in a press release. “Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”

According to USA Today, company executives see CVS becoming more of an alternative to the doctor’s office in the future – more than 800 “MinuteClinic” medical clinics have already been opened in stores nationwide – and the move to do away with tobacco sales was made not just to expand its business with doctors and other medical professionals, but also to eliminate the contradiction of being a health care operation that sells cigarettes.

“One of the first questions [medical groups] ask us is, ‘Well, if you’re going to be part of the health care system, how can you continue to sell tobacco products?'” CVS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Troyen Brennan told the Associated Press. “There’s really no good answer to that at all.”

Even President Barack Obama had something to say about the decision. He issued a statement describing the news as a positive step forward.

“As one of the largest retailers and pharmacies in America, CVS Caremark sets a powerful example, and today’s decision will help advance my Administration’s efforts to reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer, and heart disease, as well as bring down health care costs – ultimately saving lives and protecting untold numbers of families from pain and heartbreak for years to come,” Obama said.

The move also caused Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to call on others to follow suit. Walmart and Walgreens both sell tobacco products at stores housing pharmacies, though it’s unclear whether they’ll stop anytime soon.

“We will continue to evaluate the choice of products our customers want, while also helping to educate them and providing smoking cessation products and alternatives that help to reduce the demand for tobacco products,” said Walgreens spokesman Jim Graham to CNN.

Although pharmacies are only responsible for 4 – 5 percent of all cigarette sales in the United States, the move won’t come without a cost. Tobacco sales at CVS account for roughly $1.5 billion in annual revenue, and the company expects to lose out on $2 billion in sales a year as a result, since smokers would often buy other products along with cigarettes.

Some cities, meanwhile, aren’t waiting for drugstores to take action. San Francisco and Boston have passed laws banning tobacco sales within pharmacies, and legal challenges to the initiatives were dismissed in court.

In addition to removing tobacco products, CVS stated it will launch a national program to help individuals quit smoking in the spring, which will include “information and treatment on smoking cessation at CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic along with online resources.”

While the percentage of those smoking has dropped over the last few decades, tobacco still kills about 480,000 Americans every year, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

8 thoughts on “CVS to stop selling tobacco products, set to lose $2 bln

  1. “One of the first questions [medical groups] ask us is, ‘Well, if you’re going to be part of the health care system, how can you continue to sell tobacco products?’” CVS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Troyen Brennan told the Associated Press. “There’s really no good answer to that at all.”

    Carefully stated. Yes, if you are part of the “system” I suppose not.

    Will you also stop selling acetaminophen due to the FDA warning about liver damage?

  2. hate to clue them in, but they are going to lose way more then they think..

    I don’t smoke, and don’t even like being around the nasty smell..but when some store that has in the past offered something to the public and made money off the public all of the sudden has a come to god moment,(hypocritical) they usually piss off the general public and it usually ends up in job loss, and store closings..just saying

  3. But they are so concerned with our health as they poison us with vaccines and drugs that kill. My brother died because of that diabetic drug Avandia he was only 62. The reason I say only was because my mom died almost reaching 95 and my dad 86 and I am 73 and in great health.

    Who are they kidding?

    1. hey just a note. My dad died at 95, smoker all his life, cigarettes finally killed him. My aunt died at 95, smoker all her life, cigarettes finally killed her. kinda like global warming?

      1. Hey I heard a friend of my friend was in perfect health until the treadmill killed him. True story. Heart attack right after he got off the thing.

        So my opinion is that everyone has their own tolerance level for everything and each one effects people differently or not at all.

  4. Taking away cigarettes, cigars and tobacco products? Man oh man. I don’t do any of these things, but I would never prevent anyone else from doing them. It’s their right as an American. Is this Bloominidiots idea? Sounds like it could have originated from him.

    I’m just saying for the sake of argument, that if this happened in Asia, especially China, there would be a riot overnight. No lie. In Asia, (whether it be Japan, China, Taiwan, Singapore, etc) people are as serious about their cigarettes as we Americans are about our guns.

Join the Conversation

Your email address will not be published.