National pharmacy chain CVS announced that it will stop selling cigarettes and tobacco products in its stores on October 1. It will also launch a national smoking cessation program this spring intended to help millions quit smoking.
CVS President and CEO Larry Merlo said the company has an increasingly “expanded role” in health care, and believes eliminating tobacco products will help it provide better care. He said that selling those items counters the CVS mission.
“Tobacco products have no place in a setting where health care is delivered,” Merlo said in a video on CVS’s website. “It became clear that removing tobacco products from our stores is the right thing to do.”
In an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, CVS Caremark Chief Medical Officer Troyen A. Brennan and Steven A. Schroeder, director of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at the University of California, San Francisco, wrote that more intervention is needed to reduce the smoking rate in the United States. Eighteen percent of American adults currently smoke, with 16 million current and former smokers having smoking-related illnesses.
“The new emphasis on restricting availability and reinforcing the social unacceptability of smoking casts a harsh light on pharmacies’ sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products,” they wrote in the article. “Advocates have long questioned the juxtaposition of the distribution of medications for promoting health with the sale of the single most deadly consumer product.”
The American Cancer Society called the move significant because policies that restrict access to tobacco access have a “direct effect on reduced smoking rates.”
CVS is the first national pharmacy chain to make such a move, and will lose an estimated $2 billion in sales when it stops selling the products. In 2012, the company had $123 billion in sales.
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