CVS, the largest US pharmacy chain to stop selling tobacco products, said Tuesday (September 2) it pulled the last packs of cigarettes off its shelves at midnight, a month ahead of schedule.
The Woonsocket, RI-based company, which operates 7,700 retail pharmacies and 900 walk-in medical clinics across the United States, also announced that it had changed its name from CVS/Caremark Corporation to CVS Health.
“For our patients and customers, health is everything and CVS Health is changing the way health care is delivered to increase access, lower costs and improve quality,” said the company’s CEO, Larry Merlo.
CVS announced plans in February to stop selling tobacco products, with Merlo estimating at the time that the move would cost the company about $2 billion in annual revenues.
The decision rocked the US health-care industry and was praised by President Barack Obama and the medical community.
“Along with the start of CVS Health, the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS/pharmacy ends today. By eliminating cigarettes and tobacco products from sale in our stores, we can make a difference in the health of all Americans,” Merlo said in a statement released on Wednesday (September 3).
COMMENT: CVS initially planned to stop selling tobacco products on October 1, but decided to remove the products from its shelves a month ahead of the target date.
“The sale of tobacco in a retail pharmacy conflicts with the purpose of the health-care services delivered there,” CVS Health chief medical officer Troyen Brennan said.
“Even more important, there is evidence developing that indicates that removing tobacco products from retailers with pharmacies will lead to substantially lower rates of smoking with implications for reducing tobacco-related deaths.”
CVS Health, which employs about 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners, is launching a smoking cessation campaign to help millions of Americans quit smoking.
“Quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do to improve your health and protect the health of your family, but quitting isn’t easy,” CVS/pharmacy president Helena Foulkes said.
“Results of a new study from CVS Health, included in a Health Affairs blog, show that the enactment of policies to eliminate the sale of tobacco products at retailers with pharmacies in San Francisco and Boston was associated with up to a 13.3 percent reduction in purchasers of tobacco products,” the company said.