CVS Caremark Corp., which is shifting into a more substantial role a health care provider, said it will phase out tobacco products by Oct. 1 in its 7,600 stores.
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The main question on most people’s minds: will others follow the example of the nation’s second-largest drugstore chain?
CVS and other drugstore chains have been adding in-store clinics and expanding their health care offerings. They’ve also been expanding the focus of some clinics to include helping people manage chronic illnesses like high blood pressure and diabetes.
The move to stop selling tobacco products drew praise from President Barack Obama, doctors and anti-smoking groups when it was announced on Wednesday, puts pressure on other retailers to stop selling tobacco as well. But first they have to overcome their addiction to a product that attracts customers.
“They don’t make much money on tobacco, but it does draw people into the store,” said Craig R. Johnson, president of the retail consultancy Customer Growth Partners.
CVS CEO Larry Merlo said the company concluded it could no longer sell cigarettes in a setting where health care also is being delivered. CVS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Troyen A. Brennan said the presence of tobacco in its stores has made for some awkward conversations as CVS continues working towards teaming up with hospital groups and doctor practices.
“One of the first questions they ask us is, ‘Well, if you’re going to be part of the health care system, how can you continue to sell tobacco products?'” said Dr. Brennan.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called on others to follow the CVS example.
“We need an all-hands-on-deck effort to take tobacco products out of the hands of America’s younger generation, and to help those who are addicted to quit,” she said in a statement.