CVS Caremark to stop selling tobacco products

A major US pharmacy chain, CVS Caremark, is to stop selling cigarettes and all other tobacco products, the company announced today.

The US is unusual among the advanced economies in that many pharmacies also sell cigarettes. In Boston, San Francisco and some other US cities, the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies is already banned.

President Barack Obama, in praise of the move, said:

“As one of the largest retailers and pharmacies in America, CVS Caremark sets a powerful example, and today’s decision will help advance my administration’s efforts to 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.”

Removing tobacco products from the shelves will not be done instantly. CVS Pharmacy CEO, Larry Merlo announced that the move will be completed by October 1st, 2014. He added that the loss of tobacco and cigarette sales will mean a decline in revenue of approximately $2 billion.

Merlo said today:

“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. Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”

“As the delivery of health care evolves with an emphasis on better health outcomes, reducing chronic disease and controlling costs, CVS Caremark is playing an expanded role in providing care through our pharmacists and nurse practitioners.”

“The significant action we’re taking today by removing tobacco products from our retail shelves further distinguishes us in how we are serving our patients, clients and health care providers and better positions us for continued growth in the evolving health care marketplace.”

Smoking kills 450,000+ Americans annually

CVS Pharmacy announced in a press release that smoking is the main cause of premature death and disease in the US, where more than 480,000 deaths occur each year. In 1965, about 42% of Americans smoked compared to 18% today.

However, the decline in smoking prevalence has stalled during the last ten years. More interventions to reduce the smoking rate further are needed.

CVS Caremark Chief Medical Officer Troyen A. Brennan, M.D., M.P.H., said:

“CVS Caremark is continually looking for ways to promote health and reduce the burden of disease. Stopping the sale of cigarettes and tobacco will make a significant difference in reducing the chronic illnesses associated with tobacco use.”