CVS stores will stop selling cigarettes and all other tobacco products in their stores, the first chain of national pharmacies to strike tobacco from their shelves.
CVS Caremark announced Wednesday that it would be phasing out all tobacco by October 1 of this year, citing concern for the health of their customers.
“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,” Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Caremark, said in a statement. “Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”
The move garnered praise from health activists, including President Obama.
“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 in a statement Wednesday.
CVS is the nation’s largest pharmacy based on total prescription revenue, operating more than 7,600 stores and 900 MinuteClinics.
The move follows other grocery and supermarket stores that have struck out tobacco. Close to a decade ago, the regional supermarket chain Wegmans Food Markets Inc. decided to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco in all stores.
Some believe the move by CVS may push other chains to follow suit, but other companies remained noncommittal.
“We have been evaluating this product category for some time to balance the choices our customers expect from us with their ongoing health needs,” Walgreens spokesman Jim Graham said in a statement. “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.”
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. released a statement saying it would “work with them as they transition out of the tobacco category in the coming months.”
The move by CVS to stop selling cigarettes and tobacco is expected to create an annual loss of $2 billion from tobacco shoppers, including $1.5 billion on direct tobacco sales and another $500 million on other products those shoppers purchase while in the stores.