CVS Pharmacy announced yesterday that, as of October 1, the company will no longer sell tobacco cigarettes, cigars, or chewing tobacco in any of its more than 7,600 retail stores.
While the move is likely to cost the company an estimated $2 billion dollars in annual sales, it’s generated widespread and enthusiastic praise from public health groups and government officials. Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, cheered CVS’ decision, as did Barack and Michelle Obama. President Obama congratulated CVS for setting “a powerful example” that “will help reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer, and heart disease, as well as bring down health care costs — ultimately saving lives and protecting untold numbers of families from pain and heartbreak for years to come.”
Currently, approximately 18 percent of Americans smoke, a steep decline from 42 percent in 1965. Nevertheless, health care advocates have expressed concern that this rate of decline has stagnated recently and that the number of deaths caused by tobacco use remains too high. Currently, 480,000 Americans die every year because of tobacco. Anti-tobacco groups will likely use CVS’s decision as leverage in their efforts to pressure other retailers, such as Walmart, to remove tobacco from their stores, as well.
CVS’s announcement appears to represent part of a broader company-wide effort to focus on meeting consumer’s health care needs by providing health care advice and clinic services rather than marketing popular retail items. Along with removing tobacco from stores, the company plans to begin training associates to counsel customers on smoking cessation. It’s also considering expanding its inventory of smoking cessation products, such as nicotine patches and gum.
CVS does not currently carry electronic cigarettes in its stores, and the company did not reveal whether it plans to sell them in the future. A spokesperson said that CVS was waiting for input from the Food and Drug Administration before it made a decision about the products.
The Food and Drug Administration has expressed interest in regulating e-cigarettes, which have become an enormously popular alternative to tobacco cigarettes, especially for consumers concerned about the health risks associated with tobacco. The agency’s process has been delayed for several months, however, as officials have struggled over whether the devices can be regulated as tobacco products.
We, at Pink Spot Vapors, applaud CVS for its courageous decision to take a stand against the tobacco industry and refuse to market products that endanger consumer health. We hope that the company’s effort to prioritize the health and well being of its customers over its profit margin will inspire other businesses to follow suit. Happy Vaping!