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

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