CVS Health announced in February of this year that they would be discontinuing the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products in their nearly 7,700 stores by October 1st. Yesterday, September 3rd, the national pharmacy chain revealed that they had beaten their own goal by nearly a full month, having removed tobacco from all of the company’s stores.
The decision to remove cigarettes from all locations was explained by CVS as being necessary to reconcile their retail operation with the company’s position as a national provider of health products and services.
“CVS Health is always looking for ways to promote health and reduce the burden of disease,” said Troyen A Brennan, Chief Medical Officer of CVS Health. “Putting an end to the sale of cigarettes and tobacco will make a significant difference in reducing the chronic illnesses associated with tobacco use.”
“Every day, all across the country, customers and patients place their trust in our 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners to serve their health care needs,” added Helena B Foulkes, President of CVS/pharmacy. “The removal of cigarette and other tobacco products from our stores is an important step in helping Americans to quit smoking and get healthy.”
Smoking is the leading cause of premature disease and death in the US, causing more than 480,000 deaths on an annual basis. While tobacco used in the country had dropped to roughly 18% of the adult population (down from 42% in 1965), the rate of reduction has stalled over the past decade. CVS hopes that in removing tobacco from its pharmacies it will help to reignite the rate of reduction by reducing the availability of cigarettes.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman lauded the early removal of tobacco from CVS, stating that “CVS clearly recognizes the contradiction of having these dangerous and devastating tobacco products on the shelves of a retail chain that services consumers’ health care needs.”
Schneiderman went on call for other major pharmacy chains to follow CVS’ lead, specifically asking Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Rite-Aid, Safeway, and Kroger to cease the sale of tobacco products immediately.
“As pharmacies increasingly market themselves as a source for community health care, they send a mixed message by continuing to sell deadly tobacco products,” he said. “The fact that these stores profit from the sale of cigarettes and tobacco must take a backseat to the health of New Yorkers and customers across the country.”