CVS Caremark Corp. said on Feb. 5 that it would stop selling tobacco products at its 7,600 stores by October of this year, becoming the first national drugstore chain in the United States to take cigarettes off the shelf. Public health experts called the decision by the No. 2 U.S. drugstore chain a precedent-setting step that could pressure other retailers to follow suit.
“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 Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO, CVS Caremark. “Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”
The company estimates that it will lose approximately $2 billion in revenues on an annual basis from the tobacco shopper.
“CVS Caremark is continually looking for ways to promote health and reduce the burden of disease,” said CVS Caremark Chief Medical Officer Troyen A. Brennan, M.D., M.P.H. “Stopping the sale of cigarettes and tobacco will make a significant difference in reducing the chronic illnesses associated with tobacco use.”
CVS said it will recover some lost sales by promoting stop-smoking aids, possibly including e-cigarettes.
“As a leader of the health care community focused on improving health outcomes, we are pledging to help millions of Americans quit smoking,” said Merlo. “In addition to removing cigarettes and tobacco products for sale, we will undertake a robust national smoking cessation program.”
Walgreen Co., the U.S.’s top-retailer, said Feb. 5 that it was not making the same move at this time. “We will continue to evaluate the choice of products our customers want,” Walgreens said in a statement. In May, a Walgreen executive was quoted as saying the company, which focuses its branding on health, was continuing to sell cigarettes to stay competitive with other drug store chains, convenience stores and grocery stores.