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CVS Will Stop Selling Tobacco Products By October

“We came to the decision that cigarettes and providing health care just don’t go together in the same setting.” -- Larry J. Merlo, CVS/Caremark's chief executive.
CVS Will Stop Selling Tobacco Products By October
Image from: Flickr

Interesting, and surprising. They're giving up $2 billion a year in revenue? I'm shocked:

CVS/Caremark, the country’s largest drugstore chain, announced on Wednesday that it planned to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products by October.

The company’s move was yet another sign of its metamorphosis into becoming more of a health care provider than a largely retail business, with its stores offering more miniclinics and health advice to aid customers visiting its pharmacies.

While the company’s decision will cost it an estimated $2 billion in sales from tobacco buyers, that is a mere dent in its overall sales of $123 billion in 2012.

“We have about 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners helping patients manage chronic problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease, all of which are linked to smoking,” said Larry J. Merlo, chief executive of CVS. “We came to the decision that cigarettes and providing health care just don’t go together in the same setting.”

CVS does not sell electronic cigarettes, the highly popular but debated devices that deliver nicotine without tobacco and emit a rapidly vanishing vapor instead of smoke. It said it was waiting for guidance on the devices from the Food and Drug Administration, which has expressed interest in regulating e-cigarettes.

Some major retail stores like Walmart and convenience stores still sell cigarettes and other tobacco products, although antismoking groups and health care professionals will probably use CVS’s decision to try to pressure others to consider doing so. Municipalities have also begun enacting legislation governing where cigarettes can be sold.

Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, said in a statement that the CVS decision was “an unprecedented step in the retail industry” and predicted it would have “considerable impact.”

Ms. Sebelius said that each day, some 3,200 children under 18 will try a cigarette and 700 will go on to become daily smokers. That means, she said, that 5.6 million American children alive today will die premature due to diseases linked to smoking.

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