CVS Yanks Tobacco Products From Its Shelves A Month Earlier Than Planned

Earlier this year, CVS Caremark announced it would stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in its drugstores across the country by October 1. It’s not October yet, but CVS has decided to pull those items early. As in, today. And it’s got another change in the pipeline, too — its new corporate name is CVS Health.

All of its 7,700 retail stores are done with tobacco starting today, a month sooner than the original deadline, reports USA Today. Back in February, CVS said selling cigarettes and the like was “inconsistent” with the company’s purpose.

In addition to the end of the tobacco era in its stores, CVS’ is switching its name to CVS Health, with retail stores still going by CVS/Pharmacy. The emphasis here being on health, now that it’s ditched tobacco. It’ll also have a new smoking-cessation program to help users quit.

“We’re doing more and more to extend the front lines of health care,” CEO Larry Merlo said, adding that the company moved up the quit date because it got ready for the move sooner than planned, reports the Associated Press.

While some smaller independent chains have dropped tobacco products, and lawmakers have repeatedly called on major drugstore chains to do so, CVS will be the first large chain going tobacco-less — and is losing out on about $2 billion a year in tobacco sales by doing so.

“CVS’ announcement to stop selling tobacco products fully a month early sends a resounding message to the entire retail industry and to its customers that pharmacies should not be in the business of selling tobacco,” Matthew Myers, president of the Washington-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids told USA Today. “This is truly an example of a corporation leading and setting a new standard.”

CVS’ chief medical officer says the company research points to 65,000 fewer deaths a year if all other pharmacies stopped selling cigarettes as well.

While it’s unclear how much of a wave this will make in the pool of smokers and tobacco buyers, health advocates hope that other major chains will do the same. Who knows if that will happen, however — in February, Walgreens announced it was “evaluating its tobacco line,” and hasn’t made any major announcements regarding tobacco since.

CVS stops selling tobacco, offers quit-smoking programs [USA Today]