U.S. pharmacy chain CVS bans the sale of tobacco

In a major move against the sale of tobacco products in the United States, leading national drugstore chain CVS has stopped selling cigarettes at its more than 7,600 stores as of September 3. This is nearly a month ahead of the previously targeted date of October 1. In February, the company announced that it would end the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at its CVS/pharmacy stores on Oct. 1, but has started the purge a few weeks early. CVS/pharmacy is the only national pharmacy chain to take this step.

The move comes as the company changes its name from CVS Caremark to CVS Health.

“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. The sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose – helping people on their path to better health,” the company said on its web site.

“As the delivery of health care evolves with an emphasis on better health outcomes, reducing chronic disease and controlling costs, CVS Caremark is playing an expanded role through our 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners. By removing tobacco products from our retail shelves, we will better serve our patients, clients and health care providers while positioning CVS Caremark for future growth as a health care company. Cigarettes and tobacco products have no place in a setting where health care is delivered. This is the right thing to do.”

CVS says cigarettes drive about $2 billion of its annual sales—or less than 2% of its total revenue, which hit $126 billion in 2013. CVS operates 7,700 retail pharmacies, 900 walk-in medical clinics, and is a leading pharmacy benefits manager with nearly 65 million plan members.