The nation’s second largest pharmacy chain, CVS, announced its retail locations will stop selling tobacco products this fall.
President Obama, a former smoker, says he applauds the CVS decision to pull tobacco off the shelves. The president says the move will help decrease the rates of cancer and heart disease, and will lower health care costs in the future.
Tobacco products account for about $1.5 billion a year in sales for CVS pharmacies. Those smokers who come in also buy about a half a billion dollars’ worth of other merchandise, according to a company estimate.
But in a pharmacy that also offers in-store medical clinics, (and a division that manages pharmaceuticals for big health care plans) CVS executives have concluded tobacco must go.
In a video news release, Troy Brennan, M.D., CVS’s Chief Medical Officer, said, “We’re part of the overall health care team. It would really be antithetical … to have a product in our stores … which causes … diseases.”
Nearby mom-and-pop stores that sell tobacco products are generally elated with the new CVS plan. Syed Ahmed opened a Discount Tobacco store a few blocks from a CVS on Columbia Pike in Arlington, Va., just a year ago.
“So I’m hoping that slowly, the customers will start coming here,” Ahmed told us. “I plan to start advertising more and more to make sure that they know that I’m here.”
We talked to a number of CVS customers about the forthcoming corporate policy and got mostly positive responses. Wanda Aldrich, a former smoker who quit just eight days ago, called the new policy “great.”
Even among smokers, we found few complaints about CVS’s decision to ban tobacco from their stores. Gloria Mallory said, “I’ll buy them somewhere else. Cheaper than the CVS anyhow.”
CVS says all tobacco products will be off store shelves by October 1.
Walgreens, Wal-Mart, and Rite Aid, the other big national players with pharmacies, do sell tobacco products. Target stores, which also have pharmacies, stopped selling cigarettes in 1996.