CVS Bans Cigarettes

CVS pharmacies pride themselves on having nearly everything you need, from dog food to toilet paper. But people looking to buy smokes will have to start shopping elsewhere. 

CVS, which has more than 7,600 stores in the U.S., announced that they will begin to phase out sales of tobacco products by Oct. 1. They are the first national pharmacy chain to eliminate the sale of tobacco in all their stores.

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Larry Merlo, CVS's president and CEO, called the decision a “significant step toward promoting better health” in helping people manage conditions that are worsened by smoking.

“Tobacco has no place in a setting where healthcare is delivered,” Merlo said in a corporate video announcement.

Smoking cessation products like nicotine patches, however, will still be available at CVS stores.

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Dr. Troy Brennan, CVS’s chief medical officer, says CVS and their employees should be helping patients manage their medications for diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.

“It’s really antithetical, as a result, to have a product in our store, tobacco, which actually causes these kinds of diseases, so that’s why it’s so important that we eliminate the sale of tobacco products today,” he said.

In a position paper published Wednesday in Journal of the American Medical Association, Brennan and co-author Steven A. Schroeder, director of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at the University of California, San Francisco, wrote that the paradox of selling cigarettes at a pharmacy has become more relevant because of changes in the pharmacy industry.

Those changes include being more active in the healthcare system with more patient counseling, outreach to healthcare centers, and products aimed at wellness.

“Perhaps more important, pharmacies are moving into the treatment arena, with the advent of retail health clinics” Brennan and Schroder wrote. “These retail clinics, originally designed to address common acute infections, are gearing up to work with primary care clinicians to assist in treating hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes—all conditions exacerbated by smoking."

The move by CVS is a continuation of a nationwide push for retailers to distance themselves from tobacco as research continues to demonstrate the negative health effects of smoking. Besides lung cancer, smoking has been linked to an increase in diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and numerous other problems.

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