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CVS to become first major US drugstore to stop selling cigarettes

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CVS Caremark Corp, the 2nd largest drugstore chain in the U.S., announced plans to discontinue the sale of cigarettes and all other tobacco products in its 7,600 stores by October. CVS will be the first drugstore chain to make the change, according to a Feb. 5 report by Fox News. This is being called a precedent-setting event by many in the public health sector.

The Caremark unit of CVS is one of the bigger pharmacy benefits managing companies, handling numerous corporations and the government Medicare program. The move to stop selling tobacco products will, CVS believes, strengthen their position as a healthcare provider.

In cities like Boston and San Francisco, pharmacies are already prohibited by law from selling tobacco products. Advocates hope other pharmacy companies will follow CVS’s lead.

Other retailers voluntarily dropped the sale of cigarettes some time ago. Among them are Target who quit in 1996, and Wegman’s, an East Coast grocer who quit in 2008.

President Obama had this to say about the CVS announcement:

'[T]oday’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," the president said in a statement.

The company does not expect the move to have a major effect on their profits. They are expected to post revenue for 2014 around $132.9 billion. The cessation of tobacco sales is expected to cost them roughly $2 billion in sales.

The rate for smokers in America has fallen from 1065’s 43% to the current 18%, indicating a steady decline. However, smoking remains the number 1 cause of preventable death with more than 480,000 people dying from it each year.

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