CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Smokers will soon be out of luck at CVS after the pharmacy giant announced plans to put profits aside and snuff out tobacco sales by October 1.
“When we asked ourselves where we want to be in the future as a health care company, it became clear that removing tobacco products from our stores is the right thing to do,” said Larry Merlo, CVS Caremark CEO.
According to Merlo, the move is part of a push to make the chain a full health care facility and open them up to more deals with hospitals and health insurers.
“CVS is a pharmacy, and it stands for helping people stay healthy,” said Robert Butler, of Cleveland. “I don’t feel that’s a bad thing. They can get ‘em right across the street or right down the street if they want them.”
In a White House statement President Obama said, “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.”
The move drew praise online, where First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted, “now we can all breathe a little easier.”
Both the American Heart Association and American Lung Association also praised the move, while Tobacco Free kids called it “courageous” and the American Medical Association said, “CVS was putting public health ahead of the bottom line.”
“If they stop selling them, then where am I going to go,” asked Cleveland resident Gregory Rosson. “I’m going to go to other businesses which is going to hurt them.”
The company projects they’ll lose about $2 billion from the decision and for now, CVS seems to be going it alone.
Ohio-based Discount Drug Mart had no comment, while Rite Aid issued the following statement:
“Rite Aid offers a wide range of products, including tobacco products, which are available for purchase in accordance with federal, state and local laws. Additionally, Rite Aid also sells a variety of smoking cessation products and provides additional resources, including our pharmacists, who are available to counsel people trying to stop smoking. We continually evaluate our product offering to ensure that it meets the needs and interests of our customers.”
According to a statement from Walgreens:
“We have been evaluating this product category for some time to balance the choices our customers expect from us, with their ongoing health needs. We will continue to evaluate the choice of products our customers want, while also helping to educate them and providing smoking cessation products and alternatives that help to reduce the demand for tobacco products.”
The move is also drawing praise from the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“When we look back on this in a few years, pharmacies selling cigarettes will looks as odd as doctors encouraging people to smoke one brand or another does to us today,” said Dr. Tom Frieden.