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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

CVS to Stop Selling Tobacco at Its 7,600 US Stores

Posted by on Wed, Feb 5, 2014 at 8:42 AM


The nation's second largest drugstore chain has announced that it will stop selling tobacco products:

WOONSOCKET, R.I., Feb. 5, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — CVS Caremark (NYSE: CVS) announced today that it will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at its more than 7,600 CVS/pharmacy stores across the U.S. by October 1, 2014, 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."

This is really pretty big news. On the one hand, smoking is still the single largest cause of premature death and illness in the US, killing about 480,000 Americans annually. On the other hand, CVS says that its tobacco sales accounted for about $2 billion in revenue annually. That's not nothing.

So while I don't doubt that CVS executives are proud of themselves for doing the right thing—and they should be—they run a business, so this decision must also say something about the changing economics of tobacco. CVS is in the process of recasting itself as a health service provider, and its tobacco sales simply didn't fit that image. So they have chosen to jettison tobacco sales in pursuit of what they must view to be a more lucrative longterm business.

And that's a hopeful sign that the prevalence of smoking will continue to fade away.


Comments (21) RSS

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That's amazing. Would love to see Kroger or Bartell's follow their lead.
Posted by abomb on February 5, 2014 at 8:52 AM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 2
If they were serious about being healthy, they'd also be removing all the soda pop, candy, cookies, potato chips, and other junk food from their shelves.
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on February 5, 2014 at 8:57 AM · Report this
Geez, give them some credit. They will lose a lot of money doing this and while junk food is bad, smoking is worse.
Posted by westello on February 5, 2014 at 8:59 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 4
5280 @2 beat me to it....

Isn't heart disease the leading cause of death? Sure, stopping smoking will help with that, but if you really want people to be healthy, they'd have to stop selling all that cheap sugar.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on February 5, 2014 at 9:00 AM · Report this
I love how every time a company makes a small step to try to do the right thing, idiots jump in with WELL IF THEY DO THIS WHY DON'T THEY GET RID OF EVERRRRRYTHING. Christ guys, baby steps.
Posted by tigntink on February 5, 2014 at 9:04 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 6
Ok, in that case then, a better baby step would be to stop selling fat and sugar filled foods first, and then stop selling tobacco. Both are bad but the former is worse for your health than the latter. I suppose CVS is just taking the easy route.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on February 5, 2014 at 9:18 AM · Report this
Potato chips are not engineered to be physically addictive.
Posted by shabadoo on February 5, 2014 at 9:30 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 8
Meh. Whatever. I get it.... SLOG readers by and large despise cigarettes, but occasionally eat potato chips and cookies, and drink alcohol, and smoke pot. So anything anti-cigarette is good and anything anti-what-slog-readers-like is bad. But cigarettes are unpopular with lots of people, so it's totally easy to justify CVS's decision not to sell them, while defending their decision to keep selling other harmful stuff. That's why it's not at all surprising that they chose to stop selling them: A pure popularity contest. But that's how most stuff in this country is done anyway... do what's popular vs. do what's right. So whatever. When's the parade?
Posted by Urgutha Forka on February 5, 2014 at 9:36 AM · Report this
Peteykins 9
Sort of repeating my comment from the later post.

CVS is doing this to streamline their self-checkout system. By removing age-restricted items from the self-checkout lines, they'll be able to cut staff, eliminate more cash registers, etc. I really doubt this is about caring about customer health, as pointed out by comment #2 and others.
Posted by Peteykins on February 5, 2014 at 9:38 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 10
@8, as @7 says, baby steps. I bet they get billions in revenue from junk, too. They can't cut every profitable vice at once.

Besides, if you were in charge, wouldn't you cut the one with the worse public perception first?
Posted by Matt from Denver on February 5, 2014 at 9:43 AM · Report this
Lew Siffer 11
Anyone in this State with a dedicated habit only buys bulk from the Reservations anyway.
Posted by Lew Siffer on February 5, 2014 at 9:50 AM · Report this
rob! 12
On the sugar front (and it's not just candy, etc.—all kinds of packaged foods have lots of sugar and/or corn syrup added):
...a new study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, ...finds that Americans who consumed the most sugar — about a quarter of their daily calories — were twice as likely to die from heart disease as those who limited their sugar intake to 7 percent of their total calories.

To translate that into a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, the big sugar eaters were consuming 500 calories a day from sugar — that's 31 teaspoons. Those who tamed their sweet tooth the most, by contrast, were taking in about 160 calories a day from sugar — or about 10 teaspoons per day...

..."The average American is consuming 22 teaspoons a day. That's about three times what's recommended," says Laura Schmidt of the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine...

...a small, 4-ounce cup of low-fat organic peach yogurt... had 17 grams of sugar. ...A typical 6-ounce serving of vanilla yogurt has about 6 teaspoons of sugar — which is about as much as a regular size Snickers bar...
Posted by rob! on February 5, 2014 at 9:50 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 13
Besides, if you were in charge, wouldn't you cut the one with the worse public perception first?
Oh, absolutely that's what I'd do too!

It's just an unhappy reminder of what a colossal disappointment human beings continue to be, that's all. Still fooled by bread and circuses.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on February 5, 2014 at 9:55 AM · Report this
Wonkblog caught something else important:

But by jettisoning tobacco products, CVS can further evolve their pharmacies into full-fledged health care providers and strike more profitable deals with hospitals and health insurers. Its stores already are home to over 750 MinuteClinics, the country's largest chain of pharmacy-based health clinics, where ordinary Americans can get flu shots or check out earaches and sore throats.

So in essence, CVS saw the writing on the wall regarding the decline in cigarette sales, and has instead chosen to hitch their wagon to the very profitable healthcare industry instead... and as a result, they need the positive image boost to back it up. Not exactly 100% altruistic.
Posted by UNPAID COMMENTER on February 5, 2014 at 11:03 AM · Report this
@14: What, Wonkblog did some actual reporting? With actual facts instead of speculation? What a shocker.

Also, the WaPo article said that smoking is the #1 cause of preventable death, so forget the chips and soda -- you want to save lives, get rid of the smokes.
Posted by Jen7 on February 5, 2014 at 11:14 AM · Report this
Michelle Maibelle 16
The internet has taught me to never believe that a corporation has the best intentions for the good of its customers.
Posted by Michelle Maibelle on February 5, 2014 at 11:15 AM · Report this
@7: they ARE physically designed to make you crave more and more.
Posted by Hanoumatoi on February 5, 2014 at 11:29 AM · Report this
keshmeshi 18

Tobacco is worse for your health, period. It only currently results in fewer bad health outcomes because so few people smoke these days.

It's like claiming heroin is less dangerous than alcohol because it kills fewer people. It kills fewer people because fewer people use it, not because it's less dangerous.
Posted by keshmeshi on February 5, 2014 at 1:39 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 19

I've found the "recommended" amount of sugar to be ridiculously low. I've basically cut all sugar out of my diet except for actual dessert, but just one dessert a day puts me over the "recommended" limit. I'm curious what basis nutritionists use to keep the amount that low. Their salt limits have already been proven to be bullshit.
Posted by keshmeshi on February 5, 2014 at 1:42 PM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 20
Ok, I'd buy that. It sort of supports my initial suggestion in a roundabout way though. If you want to save the most people, then stop selling the things that are killing the most people... and in this case, as you pointed out too, that's NOT cigarettes.

In the end, I completely understand their reason for stopping cig sales. And sure, it's a great baby step, I agree. Still, it's mostly for show, not for effect.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on February 5, 2014 at 2:22 PM · Report this
I am not buying into all the feel goods on this. Yeah, it's great they won't sell cigs anymore, sure. But is it really because they care? No. Cigs make up a tiny portion of their income. Smokers don't go to CVS to buy cigs because the markup on them at drugstores, especially CVS, is outrageous. They're discontinuing a product that doesn't sell, and hyping it as a 'responsible thing to do'. So it's not like this is going to matter to anyone who actually smokes.

This is like gas stations saying they will no longer sell bread because it's bad for your blood sugar. It's not like they sell any appreciable amount anyway.

Yeah, I know, smoking is bad. Unless its pot, that apparently gets a free pass nowadays.
Posted by CobaltBlue on February 5, 2014 at 2:44 PM · Report this

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