Washington — CVS pharmacies announced Wednesday that they will no longer sell cigarettes and other tobacco products at its 7,600 U.S. stores beginning in October.
The move makes the retail giant the first pharmacy chain to do so, forgoing billions of dollars in annual sales to support and safeguard the health and well being of its customers.
More than 20 million Americans have died from smoking since the historic 1964 report by the U.S. Surgeon General linked smoking to lung cancer.
But smoking continues to kill nearly 500,000 Americans a year, while another 16 million suffer from smoking-related illnesses that cost society more than $289 billion annually in medical care and other economic costs, according to a recent surgeon general’s report.
“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 of CVS Caremark. “As the delivery of health care evolves with an emphasis on better health outcomes, reducing chronic disease and controlling costs, CVS Caremark is playing an expanded role in providing care through our pharmacists and nurse practitioners. The significant action we’re taking today, further distinguishes us in how we are serving our patients, clients and health care provider and better positions us for continued growth in the evolving health care marketplace.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius hailed the move.
“We need an all-hands-on-deck effort to take tobacco products out of the hands of America’s young generation, and to help those who are addicted to quit,” Sebelius said. “Today’s CVS Caremark announcement helps bring our country closer to achieving a tobacco-free generation. I hope others will follow their lead in this important new step to curtail tobacco use."
Representative Henry Waxman, D-Ca., also weighed in.
“CVS' decision is exactly the type of bold action needed by the private sector and leaders at all levels of government to realize our shared goal of ending (our) deadly addiction to tobacco," Waxman said. "I commend CVS for taking this important step, and I join health care providers and the public health community in urging other pharmacies and retailers to quickly follow suit.”
Tobacco sales by pharmacies is counter to the stores’ growing new role as a health care provider through their retail clinics, according to an editorial published online Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Troyen A. Brennan, CVS’ chief medical officer and Steven A. Schroeder, director of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at the University of California, San Francisco.
“These retail clinics, originally designed to address common acute infections, are gearing up to work with primary care clinicians to assist in treating hypertension, hyperlipidemia and diabetes, all conditions exacerbated by smoking,” Brennan and Schroeder wrote.
For more information about CVS’ announcement, go to http://bit.ly/1g1ibvM