Large U.S. pharmacy is kicking its cigarette habit

CVS Caremark Corp, one of the largest drugstores in the United States, stated that as of October 2014 it will no longer carry tobacco products in any of its 7,600 stores around the country, hoping its voluntary decision will have a ripple effect among other pharmacy chains.

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

President Barack Obama praised the pharmacy’s precedent-setting move and said in a statement, “As one of the largest retailers and pharmacies in America, 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 — ultimately saving lives and protecting untold numbers of families from pain and heartbreak for years to come.”

CVS estimates that it stands to lose upwards of $2 billion as a result of pulling cigarettes and other tobacco products off their shelves.  But when weighed against a reported $123.1 billion in revenues in 2012, it doesn’t appear that CVS will be feeling much of a fiscal pinch.

Tobacco still remains the number one cause of preventable disease and death.  A U.S. Surgeon General report last month linked smoking to 480,000 deaths annually, up from a previous estimate of 443,000 deaths. It attributed at least $289 billion in annual costs from smoking, including $150 billion for lost productivity and $130 billion in medical care.

But CVS is not being hailed a hero by everyone.  Many critics are calling into question the mega pharmacy’s decision to pull tobacco products while at the same time continue to stock and sell unhealthy processed food choices and alcoholic beverages.  Others are disgruntled over the restrictions and regulations being placed upon them as they watch their freedom of choice being chipped away at by just another big corporation.

Perhaps the drug chain is just following the breadcrumbs on the money trail, keenly aware of the significant decline in the number of cigarette smokers over the years and a steadily rising number of prescription drug sales.  Stores like CVS and Walgreen’s are the gatekeepers to highly addictive and oftentimes abused prescription drugs like painkillers, tranquilizers, antidepressants, sleeping pills and stimulants, which can be just as addictive and potent as the heroin or cocaine sold on the street.  And with the surging number of “pain management” clinics and pill mills popping up around the country, the business of pedaling prescription drugs has turned into a multi-billion dollar racket.

Maybe a company’s decision to remove a product known to harm people is as a result of a new world attempting to emerge, a world where the multi-million dollar corporations are forced to make changes in response to humanity’s evolution.  Human beings are waking up and wising up to tobacco companies engineering addictive products and marketing them disingenuously as “cool” or “relaxing,” no longer willing to sit back and watch cigarette makers rake in billions of dollars at the expense of people dying from cancer, emphysema, and heart disease.

So what do you think?  Is CVS’s decision a step in the “right’ direction, a cause for celebration?  Or is it another slight-of-hand marketing ploy created to divert our attention from what is going on somewhere else in their stores?  How does their declaration of “helping people on their path to better health” feel to you?  Authenticate?  Genuine?  Promising?  Contradictory?  How long will financial benefit continue to be a dominating factor in the way people and businesses operate and function in our communities?  In our world?  Are we well on our way or at least beginning to see the day where the collective desires and longings for a better world, a freer world, a healthier and happier world, a more spiritually aware and conscious world, will produce and bring forth exactly that?

(Lisa McCormack is a Feature Editor at The Global Conversation and lives in Orlando, Florida.  To connect with Lisa, please e-mail her at Lisa@TheGlobalConversation.com.)

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  • Christopher Toft

    Selling ciggies in a drugstore?? That’s weird! I don’t think boots or superdrug or whoever in the UK have ever sold tobacco products. Any shop removing tobacco from sale is making a good decision i think.

    • Is does seem to be a bit of an oxymoron, doesn’t it, Christopher? Here in the U.S., as far as I can remember, there have always been cigarette sales in drugstores such as CVS and Walgreen’s. I agree, moving tobacco from their shelves is a step in a better direction. And for me, their decision to do so would be a determining factor in my decision to shop there versus a store who didn’t make that same choice. And isn’t that what we are all doing anyway, expressing our truths and aligning ourselves with the people, places, and things that help to define who we are? Always wonderful to see you here, Christopher!

  • “…is it another slight-of-hand marketing ploy created to divert our
    attention from what is going on somewhere else in their stores?”

    As for processed foods, I think they don’t have any non processed foods do they?

    The biggest think (yes I said think not thing) we have is free will choice to buy or not to buy. Are we so weak we can’t even say no to a cigarettes or candy bar? We don’t have to buy any of this & we need to stop hiding behind the excuse of temptation.

    Now I understand we all give in to weaknesses & temptations at times. And yes, cigarettes are very addictive, I don’t want to dismiss that.

    As for many other items, some may exercise little to no restraint. We blame others but we need to empower ourselves more by the long term choices we can make if we simply choose to.— & not short term temptations in place of long term benefits of other choices we make.

    It’s called boycott & it’s been around for years.

    Now if a company like CVS is going to loose billions of dollars not selling what others will still sell, there are even stores that sell only smoke products!, I’m all for CVS’s decision.

    I think this is some of the best news I’ve heard & this seems incredibly monumental. They are truly taking a stand & a chance to lose tons of money. I whole heartedly endorse their decision.

    In this case. the benefit is loss is gain.

    THIS IS BIG NEWS, I’m very happy to hear it. I’m Gobsmacked at it frankly. I see no down side. Well not good news for the tobacco companies. Well actually, I’ve heard & read that the sale of cigarettes is more now than ever, with India & Asia as the new targets and massive audience. That might make a good follow up story.

    Magically,
    -Marko

    • Good point that we all have the option (free will) to choose for ourselves. And the last thing a free world desires is for someone else to interfere with our ability to do so. I guess this story struck me because it showcases a large corporation making a statement of “no” to an even larger corporation – tobacco companies – even at the risk of financial loss. I salute their decision to make a significant change from the standpoint of “this is who we are.” Excellent points, Marko!

      • Thank you Lisa & I agree CVS is making a powerful powerful statement!
        We may have free will choice, but it helps in our favor to have less temptations for those vulnerable to tobacco.

  • Joyce Derby

    CVS not selling cigs won’t do anything to help people stop smoking. There are too many places to buy them.

    • I understand your point, but disagree because it’s too general of a statement.

    • Greetings, Joyce. Your two statements may be entirely correct. Yes, indeed. When I read this story, it made me reflect upon the decisions I make in my own life…and why I make them. Why I choose the actions I choose. Why I express myself in the way that I do. And it always leads me back to the same understanding. It is not so that I can change someone else or prevent someone else from doing something or make someone else do something. It is always because it is my desire to make a statement of who I am and what I hold to be true.

      CVS discontinuing the sale of cigarettes may or may not prevent anyone from smoking, but they may attract to their stores people who are more health conscious, more environmentally sensitive, more mindful of supporting businesses with a service-oriented mission or purpose. People who desire to smoke will give their money and time to businesses who offer them that service or product. Thereby, life becomes a process of attraction and energetic alignment, drawing to us and moving towards those people and relationships which complement our intentions.

      Thank you so much for being here and for sharing your thoughts with us, Joyce.

  • Terri Lynn

    Hi Lisa. On the surface removing tobacco sales from CVS stores seems to a good thing but I have a feeling there is more beneath the surface that we will never know. Perhaps they found something more profitable to fill the shelves with. Either way I doubt it will stop one person from smoking people will just need to make an extra stop for cigarettes.“helping people on their path to better health” does not feel authentic to me at all.
    In my heart I believe we are all on a better way to a life that is not determined by financial gain alone but this decision by CVS does not seem to me to fit in that category.

    • I guess, Terri, because it is a multi-billion dollar corporation, in spite of its outward positive message, I still had that internal uncomfortable tug of, hmm, is there more to this story than we are able to see? Isn’t it always about money with big corporations? Not many are willing to lose billions of dollars to make a statement, right? But then I wanted to leave room in my heart for that possibility to be true, too. I was surprised to learn that Target stores stopped selling cigarettes in 1996! Thanks for stopping by, Terri!

  • Sander Viergevert

    it’s both genuine and good for marketing. now when human awareness is in evolution, marketing strategies of Corporations need to change corresponding to that evolution.