In a bold, unprecedented move in the retail industry, a Pharmacy giant is making a first by calling it quits.
CVS Caremark announced Wednesday its more than 7,600 stores will no longer sell cigarettes and other tobacco products beginning October 1, 2014.
“Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS/pharmacy is the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health,” said Larry J. Merlo, President and CEO, CVS Caremark in a press release. “Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. It accounts for more than 440,000 deaths or one of every five deaths each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“CVS Caremark is continually looking for ways to promote health and reduce the burden of disease,” said CVS Caremark Chief Medical Officer Troyen A. Brennan, M.D., M.P.H. in a press release.
The pharmacy giant’s decision to stop selling tobacco products is consistent with the positions taken by the American Medical Association (AMA), American Heart Association (AHA), American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and American Pharmacists Association that have all publicly opposed tobacco sales in retail outlets with pharmacies.
“As a leader of the health care community focused on improving health outcomes, we are pledging to help millions of Americans quit smoking,” said Merlo
In addition to stopping the sale of tobacco products, CVS plans to launch a national smoking cessation program this Spring. The program is expected to include information on kicking the habit inside stores and online, as well as smoking cessation treatment at CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic.
Smokers who quit reduce the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to the CDC. COPD is one of the leading causes of death in the United States.
“We need an all-hands-on-deck effort to take tobacco products out of the hands of America’s young generation, and to help those who are addicted to quit. Today’s CVS Caremark announcement helps bring our country closer to achieving a tobacco-free generation. I hope others will follow their lead in this important new step to curtail tobacco use,” said Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in an agency statement.
The new Surgeon General’s report says 5.6 million American children will die prematurely unless current smoking rates drop.
“Removing tobacco products from our stores is an important step in helping Americans to quit smoking and get healthy,” said Helena B. Foulkes, President, CVS/pharmacy in a press release.
CVS Caremark is the largest pharmacy in the United States based on total prescription revenue, according to the company.