CVS will stop selling cigarettes

CVS announced Wednesday that it will stop selling cigarettes, and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) quickly issued a press release praising the company for its decision.

“I applaud CVS for its decision to stop selling America’s leading killer alongside health products,” Blumenthal said. “Other stores should follow CVS’ lead by making this decision to help reduce health care costs and save countless lives. Tobacco is the only legal product that kills customers who use it as intended, and it should be completely removed from the marketplace.”

CVS Caremark said it will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at its more than 7,600 CVS/pharmacy stores across the U.S. by Oct. 1, making CVS/pharmacy the first national pharmacy chain to take this step in support of the health and well-being of its patients and customers.

“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.”

Store officials noted that smoking is the leading cause of premature disease and death in the United States, with more than 480,000 deaths annually.

“While the prevalence of cigarette smoking has decreased from approximately 42% of adults in 1965 to 18% today, the rate of reduction in smoking prevalence has stalled in the past decade,” according to a CVS press statement. “More interventions, such as reducing the availability of cigarettes, are needed.”

“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.”

In addition to removing cigarettes and tobacco products for sale, CVS plans to undertake a national smoking cessation program.

The program, to be launched this spring, is expected to include information and treatment on smoking cessation at CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic along with online resources.

The company estimates that it will lose approximately $2 billion in revenues on an annual basis from the tobacco shopper, equating to approximately 17 cents per share, but has identified incremental opportunities that are expected to offset that loss.