CVS to be First U.S. Drugstore Chain to Stop Selling Tobacco Products

CVS Caremark announced Wednesday it will stop selling tobacco products by October 1, the Los Angeles Times reports. CVS, the nation’s second-largest drugstore chain, will be the first national pharmacy company to stop selling tobacco.

The company has more than 7,600 retail stores, the article notes. Public health advocates have pressured retailers for years to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products. CVS says its annual sales of tobacco products total about $2 billion, or about 1.6 percent of the company’s revenues in 2012.

“Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS/pharmacy is simply the right thing to do for the good of our customers and our company,” President and CEO Larry J. Merlo said in a statement. “The sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose – helping people on their path to better health.” The company also said it will launch a “robust national smoking cessation program” this spring.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids applauded the company’s decision. In a statement, President Matthew L. Myers said the move “represents one of the strongest actions any business has ever taken to address the enormous public health problems caused by tobacco use. CVS’s decision will reduce the availability of cigarettes and other tobacco products and sends an unmistakable message to all Americans, especially children, that tobacco use is uniquely harmful and socially unacceptable.”

Target announced in 1996 that it would stop selling tobacco products. No major retailer has limited tobacco sales since then, according to the newspaper.