The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

CVS decides to discontinue sale of tobacco products

You know that ironic feeling you get when you walk into a pharmacy to buy cigarettes?

It may soon be a thing of the past.

On Feb. 5, CVS Caremark, the nation’s second largest pharmacy chain, announced plans to eliminate the sale of tobacco products in their stores.

“The plan is to stop selling tobacco products by Oct. 1,” CVS Store Manager Colt Sharpe told The Guilfordian. “We will be first national drugstore chain in the United States to no longer sell cigarettes.”

The move to eliminate the sale of tobacco products is popular among nonsmokers and health care advocates.

According to Reuters, President Barack Obama, a former smoker, praised CVS, saying that the decision will enhance broader efforts to reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer and heart disease.

“Pharmacies shouldn’t provide products detrimental to your health,” said Irene Sullivan, former CVS employee. “That’s why it’s illegal to sell heroin and cocaine, two items that were commonly sold by pharmacies 100 years ago.”

Although this opinion is commonly held by nonsmokers, others find a major caveat to the argument. Heroin and cocaine were made illegal by legislation. Tobacco remains a legal product.

“Is choosing not to sell cigarettes any different than choosing not to sell birth control?” asked Lucas Kempton ‘04. “To me, denying a legal product to your customer because you don’t agree with it is a violation of citizens’ rights.”

Reuters reported that the decision might cost CVS approximately $2 billion in revenue annually.

After the announcement, CVS shares fell 1 percent. Larger rival Walgreens saw a 3.9 percent hike in share value, and Rite Aid Corporation’s stocks rose 2 percent. Both Walgreens and Rite Aid will continue selling tobacco products.

According to The Washington Post, CVS runs over 750 MinuteClinics and is willing to incur the short-term pain of losing shareholders in order to position itself for a long-term role in the new health care marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act.

“This move is an effort to embrace the new health care marketplace and position the corporation to provide health care to individuals,” said Sharpe.

“Health care is becoming more decentralized, and consumers are getting more choices about where to get care, whether that’s a retail clinic or a traditional hospital,” said Vaughn Kauffman, a principal in PwC’s Health Industries Advisory Services, to The Washington Post.

Although tobacco products are still legal, data shows that tobacco is an industry whose decline is reaching a point where it may no longer be feasible to sustain sales.

According to Reuters, compared to the 43 percent of Americans that smoked in 1965, only 18 percent smoke today. However, tobacco-related diseases continue to cause the highest death toll (480,000 deaths per year) amongst all preventable causes of death in the U.S.

“It’s all about the money,” said Ziad Najjar, owner of Royal Hookah Lounge in Quaker Village. “CVS will do whatever makes them money. Luckily for small business owners like me, it opens up some of the marketplace.

“Many people are quitting smoking and buying e-cigarettes from me for health reasons,” said Najjar. “Besides, pharmacies shouldn’t sell tobacco anyways. They should cure people, not make them ill.”

The growing unpopularity of smoking, in addition to the opportunity to provide health care to customers, has led to the groundbreaking move by CVS.

For smokers, the fact that tobacco is legal may matter little if major corporations like CVS begin to find ways to compensate for the revenue of tobacco products. Capitalism, not legislation, may be the reason tobacco will become an obsolete product in the American marketplace.

“Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em,” said Kempton. “You won’t be able to get them for much longer.”

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