CVS to remove tobacco products by October

Erin Smith Staff writer

February 8, 2014

ELIZABETHTOWN — Customers visiting their local CVS stores and Caremark pharmacy will soon see cigarettes disappear from the shelves. That comes after an announcement by the company that it plans to stop the sale of all tobacco products by Oct. 1.

A CVS manager in the Elizabethtown store said on Friday that she only found out about the removal on Thursday and that employees have been told that all tobacco products will be removed before October.

CVS Caremark President and CEO Larry Merlo said, “We’re the first national pharmacy chain to step up and take this action.”

Retail experts say that tobacco and cigarette sales only make up a small percentage of the sales but they do serve to draw in customers.

The CVS Caremark chain has slowly been making a move towards becoming a health care provider and is positioning its 7,600 stores by adding in-store clinics and adding other health care-related offerings to its customers. Merlo said one focus is helping customers manage chronic illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure which can be affected by smoking.

“Tobacco products have no place in a setting where health care is delivered,” said Merlo.

He said the company felt it could no longer sell tobacco products in the setting where health care was being delivered.

“Eliminating tobacco products from our CVS Pharmacy Stores more closely aligns us with our PBM clients,health plans and health care provider partners …,” said Merlo. CVS is the nation’s No. 2 pharmacy chain.

According to an Associated Press report, CVS is following an example set by some independent pharmacies who have elected not to sell tobacco products. The report also concludes that pharmacies in Europe do not sell tobacco products, nor does Target, which operates pharmacies in some of its stores.

According to reports, CVS has claimed about $1.5 billion in sales of tobacco products and is anticipating a loss of about $2 billion by eliminating the tobacco products from its stores. Overall, the company reported revenues at about $123 billion in 2012.

The company is uniquely positioned, however, according to reports, because of its pharmacy management benefits or PBM program. This program operates prescription drug plans, employers, insurers and customers.

CVS’ website tauted among other things statistics citing 480,000 deaths from smoking in the US, 16 million people affected by at least one smoking-related disease, and nine in 10 lung cancers are caused by smoking.

The move by CVS now has business analysts debating on whether other retail outlets like Walgreens, Walmart, Kmart, Rite-Aid and Kerr Drug will follow suit.