CVS to Stop Selling Cigarettes Because It's the Right Thing to Do


In a statement posted on their website Wednesday, CVS/pharmacy announced that come October 1st they will no longer sell cigarettes or tobacco products at any of their almost 8,000 stores across the country. The company says they made this call because it was “the right thing to do.”

The move coincidentally (or not) comes the same day the Food and Drug Administration announced they were launched $115 million campaign to discourage teens from smoking called The Real Cost. (As is the case with these things, the money for the campaign came from fees the tobacco companies pay to the FDA.) The ads and commercials are all centered around teen-related themes: cigarettes are bullies and they ruin your teeth and your skin. Bullying and looking beautiful: two things young people get.

In the statement, CVS said that they were getting rid of tobacco products because selling them is “inconsistent” with their goal of “helping people on their path to better health.” That’s not the whole truth; while becoming the first national pharmacy to get rid of cigarettes might seem altruistic, it’s part of the brand’s business plan to position themselves as more of a pharmacy/healthcare company than a drugstore:

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 through our 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners. By removing tobacco products from our retail shelves, we will better serve our patients, clients and health care providers while positioning CVS Caremark for future growth as a health care company. Cigarettes and tobacco products have no place in a setting where health care is delivered. This is the right thing to do.

In an interview with the New York Times, chief executive of CVS Larry J. Merlo said that no longer selling tobacco products “was really more of a discussion about how to position the company for future growth.” CVS also told the Times that they’d make back some of the $2 billion a year they’re losing in cigarette sales by getting people to sign up for “a robust national smoking cessation program” the company is launching this spring.

That $2 billion isn’t such a big deal though; in November, the Associated Press reported that the company’s profits had grown 25% that quarter, largely because of the growth of sales in generic drugs. If anything, cigarettes need CVS more than CVS needs them.

Images via Andrew Ferguson/Flickr and CVS

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