Smokers expecting to visit local CVS Caremark locations for tobacco products will soon find themselves disappointed.

The company informed consumers Feb. 5 that they will discontinue the sale of those items. The change is expected to be in full effect nationwide by Oct. 1.

CVS Caremark estimated that it will lose $2 billion as a result of the move, but said it was a small price to pay when choosing between profits and the health of patrons visiting the chain’s more than 7,600 locations.

Carolyn Castel, vice president of the company’s corporate communications told the AFRO that the company had no additional comment beyond earlier statements from the company’s president and CEO, Larry J. Merlo.

“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,” Merlo said in a release. “Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”

“As a leader of the health care community focused on improving health outcomes, we are pledging to help millions of Americans quit smoking,” said Merlo. “In addition to removing cigarettes and tobacco products for sale, we will undertake a robust national smoking cessation program.”

Health agencies across the nation praised the decision, and hoped that other businesses will see the contradiction in selling a pack of smokes at the front counter and medicine to cure smoking-related health issues at the back pharmacy counter.

“We’re pleased with the decision that CVS has made,” said Dr. Donald Shell, director of the Maryland Department Health and Mental Hygiene’s Cancer and Chronic Disease Bureau. “Anytime a major retailer removes tobacco products it means that people are going to be healthier.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking causes heart disease and strokes, and leads to five million deaths worldwide every year.

Shell said cancers caused by tobacco products show up all over the body—not just in the lungs and mouth, but even in areas such as the cervix and the stomach.

“Tobacco use is associated with about 44 percent of smoking-related cancers. We estimate that there are over 3,000 Marylanders that have suffered from cancer because of the use of tobaccos products,” he said. “We think this move by CVS will have an impact in reducing those cancer numbers, even if we don’t see the reduction for a long time.”


Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer