Smokers, if you’re looking to buy tobacco this week from your friendly, neighborhood CVS store, you better look elsewhere. CVS Health, the parent company of the CVS retail stores, announced plans to stop selling tobacco products in all of its 7,700 stores starting this Wednesday, an unprecedented move for a drugstore of this size and influence. Health experts hope that other chains will follow suit.
CVS announced back in February that it would drop tobacco and tobacco accessories by Oct. 1, as sales of the drug conflicted with the aim and mission of the CVS company. CVS Health decided to move up its plans a little earlier than expected.
“CVS’ announcement to stop selling tobacco products fully a month early sends a resounding message to the entire retail industry and to its customers that pharmacies should not be in the business of selling tobacco,” said Matthew Myers, president of the Washington-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a lobbying group for the eradication of Tobacco use. “This is truly an example of a corporation leading and setting a new standard.”
However, not all folks agree with Myers. Audrey Silk, founder of Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, a smokers’ rights group based in New York City, says that CVS is falling for the anti-smoking “crusade.” Silk says, “Pharmacies no longer sell just medicines, they have turned into grocery stores. They sell candy. They sell beer. CVS Health? It’s a perception war…Tobacco is legal. They’re engaging in public coercion by not selling cigarettes.”
The drugstore giant isn’t just stopping at cutting tobacco sales–CVS is also launching a “quit smoking campaign” that will include an assessment of the smokers’ “readiness to quit,” education, medication support to help curb the effects of tobacco addiction, and coaching to help people stay motivated and avoid relapses.
According to CVS, its decision will have a big impact. A study the company is releasing shows tobacco bans at small, independent pharmacies in Boston and San Francisco led to more than 13 percent fewer purchasers. Smokers didn’t just switch where they bought cigarettes and other tobacco products–some people just stopped buying them altogether. About 900 households in the two cities recorded everything they bought after the bans went into effect. Troyen Brennan, CVS’ chief medical officer, says if the results were extrapolated for pharmacies across the USA, it would lead to 65,000 fewer deaths a year.
Far be it from me to blindly believe that a corporation is acting in the best interest of people, but according to CVS, its tobacco sales total approximately $2 billion a year. Billion. With a “B.” So maybe CVS actually believes in what it’s doing.
[via USA Today]