CVS Pharmacies to Stop Selling Cigarettes

CVS Caremark, the parent company of CVS pharmacies, has announced it will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in all of its approximately 7,600 stores by October 1, 2014. CVS/pharmacy is the first national drug store chain to take this step.

Company executives said they made the decision because they are committed to serving the health care needs of their customers and patients, and selling tobacco products contradicts that commitment.

“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 the path to better health,” said Larry J. Merlo, President and CEO, CVS Caremark, in a statement. “Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”

Organizations including the American Cancer Society have long called for banning tobacco sales in drug stores. John R. Seffrin, PhD, CEO of the American Cancer Society, called the decision “an important new development in the fight to save lives from the devastating effects of tobacco use.”

“We applaud CVS Caremark for its leadership and strongly encourage other industry leaders to follow suit,” said Seffrin in a statement.

The move comes as CVS and other pharmacies are expanding their role in the health care system by opening health clinics, offering more counseling by pharmacists, and developing their own wellness programs.

In a Journal of the American Medical Association editorial published online February 5, 2014, CVS Caremark Chief Medical Officer Troyen A. Brennan, MD, MPH and Steven A. Schroeder, Director , Smoking Cessation Leadership Center, University of California, San Francisco, wrote that this new health care role is making the paradox of tobacco sales in pharmacies even more relevant. They write that the financial gain from selling tobacco is outweighed by the paradox of promoting health while contributing to tobacco-related deaths. The company estimates it will lose about $2 billion a year from tobacco shoppers.

Brennan and Schroeder write that even though some shoppers may continue to smoke, simply by buying their cigarettes elsewhere, removing tobacco products from CVS will still make an important difference. They say it will reinforce the social unacceptability of smoking and reduce the availability of cigarettes, a move that studies have demonstrated cuts down on smoking, especially among young people.

Seffrin agrees: “We know that policies that restrict access to tobacco products, reduce exposure to tobacco advertising, and limit the places that people smoke have a direct effect on reduced smoking rates, especially among youth. And that’s what makes this move so significant.”

In addition to removing tobacco products from its shelves, CVS plans to launch a quit-smoking program in the spring. The program is expected to include information and treatment for quitting smoking at CVS pharmacies and clinics, along with online resources.

Research shows that getting help increases the chances of quitting successfully. If you smoke and are ready to quit, or want to help someone else, visit or call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 and we'll help get you started.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Ending Sales of Tobacco Products in Pharmacies. Published online February 5, 2014 in Journal of the American Medical Association. Authors Troyen A. Brennan, MD, MPH, CVS Caremark, Woonsocket, RI and Steven A. Schroeder, MD, Smoking Cessation Leadership Center, University of California, San Francisco.

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