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.