CVS Quits Tobacco Cold Turkey

February 19th, 2014 | General News, Nutrition and Health

The country’s largest drugstore chain is refusing to sell tobacco because it’s bad for customers, and leaves folks wondering: what’s next?

Let’s talk tobacco. We’ve heard the warnings, read the labels, and this just in: the Surgeon General blames cigarettes for 480,000 deaths every year from heart disease, lung cancer, and stroke.

CVS Caremark – the largest U.S. pharmacy chain – announced this month that it will stop selling cigarettes and all tobacco products, period. This will take effect in October 2014, despite an estimated $2 billion hit in revenue for the company.

All In For HealthCare

So why are they quitting cold turkey? According to their official press release announcement, it is to show support for the health and well-being of patients and customers. President and CEO Larry Merlo says its the right thing to do, and that selling tobacco is inconsistent with CVS’ purpose within the healthcare marketplace. They’re the first drugstore chain to make this move.

Merlo said:

“We’ve got 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners who are helping millions of patients each and every day. They manage conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes — all conditions that are worsened by smoking. We’ve come to the decision that cigarettes have no place in an environment where healthcare is being delivered.”

CVS Calls It Quits on Tobacco
Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters in The New York Times

What’s the Response?

What are the implications? Well, obviously smokers will have to go elsewhere to pick up a pack. And CVS makes a bold move to show that they’re putting public health above their bottom line.

But will there be a backlash from smokers who feel abandoned by the company? A wave of new customers who support their stance? Will other retailers follow suit, or cash in on the opportunity to nab new customers who need to grab some paper towels and a prescription, along with a pack of smokes? This is yet to play out, but we’re following along.

What About Other Unhealthy Products?

We posted this news when it broke on our Facebook page to see what folks thought. And one response really made us think:

“Sounds good, BUT…what’s next? All products with sugar (diabetes), all soda (weight gain)…the list could go on until they no longer carry any food products.”

And actually, All Things Considered’s Audie Cornis wondered the same, and raised this point to CVS’s head honcho himself. If they’re hiring nurses, opening clinics, and positioning themselves as a wellness clinic and not just a convenience store, why not stop selling sugary or high-sodium foods?

Merlo’s response: because they’re okay in moderation, which isn’t true of tobacco. Touche.

So what IS next? Whatever the case, it’s an interesting story to follow! Tell us how you feel in the comments below, we want to hear from you!

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