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Why You Should Care That CVS Will Stop Selling Cigarettes, Even if You’re Not a Smoker

Why You Should Care That CVS Will Stop Selling Cigarettes, Even if You’re Not a Smoker

Written by Annie-Rose Strasser

CVS/Pharmacy announced on Wednesday that its stores will discontinue cigarette sales by October 1 of this year. CVS Caremark, the parent company of the pharmacy chain, predicts that the move could lose the company $2 billion in revenue for 2014, but won’t affect its earnings forecast.

“We’ve come to the conclusion that cigarettes have no place in a setting where health care is being delivered,” CVS Caremark CEO Larry Merlo told AP of the decision. He added in a written statement that ultimately discontinuing sales was “the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health.”

The company will discontinue not just cigarette sales, but also sales of all tobacco products. Additionally, pharmacies will begin offering new cessation programs to help smokers kick the habit. These programs will include treatment options, as well as information campaigns both in stores and online about the negative effects of smoking on people’s health and how to quit.

CVS’s decision is a big blow to already-struggling tobacco companies. Cigarette sales have been falling nationally, and are largely propped up by retail sales. Rates of smoking are also decreasing, from a high of 42 percent of Americans in the 1960s to just 21 percent of Americans today.

But the negative health effects of smoking remain immutable. Smoking has killed over 20 million Americans in the last 50 years. About 400,000 people a year die from smoking-related diseases. And a report by the surgeon general predicts that 5.6 million children in the United States will die prematurely unless rates of smoking drop further. That directly impacts Americans consumers in the form of health costs. The country spends about $96 billion annually on health care related to smoking illnesses — and about $58.3 billion of that comes from the government, meaning it’s a cost passed on to taxpayers.

Cessation programs like the one CVS is launching could help reverse this, though. According to a brief from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, every dollar spent on cessation is predicted to save $50 in health related costs.

President Obama, whose signature health care law factors in smoking both in the form of cessation programs and higher premiums for smokers, applauded CVS’s move in a written statement Wednesday morning.

“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,” his statement said.

This post was originally published in ThinkProgress

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Photo Credit: John Phelan

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147 comments

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7:41AM PDT on Sep 5, 2014

Thank you Mr. Merlo - this took courage!

You have my respect AND my future business!!!!

6:31PM PDT on Apr 6, 2014

I was glad when CVS announced they would stop selling all tobacco products. Maybe soon they will stop selling alcohol. The only "vice" they should keep is Chocolate! :-)

4:37AM PST on Feb 22, 2014

I live in VA, a huge tobacco producer. Phillip Morris is a huge employer in our state. I love the smell of curing tobacco! That being said, I think CVS' decision to stop selling tobacco products it great! They are promoting health, cigarettes don't belong there. People who smoke will just go next door to get their cigarettes.

10:12AM PST on Feb 13, 2014

Target Stores stopped selling cigs more than a decade ago.

9:47PM PST on Feb 10, 2014

I enjoyed smoking. I sneaked smokes from the time I was 17 until I finally laid them down at age 67 on July 16, 2013. I never had high blood pressure, was told I never smelled of the noxious smoke but around my late 50's I began to get "messy". I dribbled ashes everywhere to my husband's dismay/disgust, started burning holes in my bedding (we had smoke detectors all over the place), clothing....you name it. My room turned yellow almost immediately after painting from the smoke. Even keeping my closet door shut, the smoke would creep in there. You see, I had become a very serious smoker, lighting my new one on the end of my old one...terrible. It began to horrify me. My grandfather, who never smoked, had had lung cancer and at my age that began to play in my mind. So on that date I laid them down, didn't want another one, no cravings (seriously), didn't bother me being around smokers. I guess I had smoked all I wanted, my limit and I was finally and forever finished. I don't even think about them any more and people who know me can't believe it. Frankly, neither can I but I'm very thankful to God for letting it be that easy for me. And this was after a hip replacement, followed by two hip dislocations followed by another hip replacement during
which they broke my femur in 2 places and now I've been told that femur is twisting so I'm facing yet more surgery. Almost 11 months bedridden yet I still haven't picked them back up with the grace of God and good family genes of a st

4:42PM PST on Feb 10, 2014

Okay, CVS is not perfect, BUT I'll take a "small" win anytime.

8:29PM PST on Feb 9, 2014

Not going to shop there again - they sell so much that's just as "bad" that I don't want them making my decisions! Lepidopter P. said it well and I agree!

3:16PM PST on Feb 9, 2014

CVS also doesn't sell any pain medications, at least in my area. I had a ligitimate prescription from a doctor for pain meds for use after surgery and they refused to fill it. That is a policy they have been following. I had to go to Walmart, not a place I want to go to to get it filled. I used to use CVS, but after they lost my granddaughter prescription and it took a day to find it, and this incident with the pain killer, I stopped using them and went to Publix instead. I am glad they are not selling tobacco, but they need to reavaliate their attitude towards other medications. My son just moved back home, I have been raising his daughter. He smoked, but she refused to hug him til he stopped. She has asthma and smoke is one of the triggers. He stopped and has realized what we said when we said he stunk. He can smell again and can't stand tobacco smell himself now!

10:55AM PST on Feb 9, 2014

Leah H, any pharmacy can refuse the sale of Plan B if the pharmacist is morally opposed to selling it, that's not just a CVS policy. Has nothing to do with a political view - if they were not concerned about women's health they just wouldn't sell it at all. It's OTC now anyway, so not a pharmacy issue anymore. Trust me, I'm a pharmacy technician, and there are medications far more controversial that nobody talks about, because they just don't know about them. Look up misoprostol if you aren't familiar with it, and check out those uses. Guarantee you CVS will still fill an Rx for that, just about any pharmacy will.

4:42AM PST on Feb 9, 2014

CVS permits its pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for Plan B and without having someone else on staff to do it. They are a right wing organization with no concern for women's health. I doubt this mover was motivated by anything other than profit. I suspect having their lone person on the checkout take time to unlock the cigarette cabinet was costing more than it was worth. I'm not getting out the pom-poms to cheer them.

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