One of the biggest retail chains in the country, CVS Caremark, announced today that it will stop selling cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco at its more than 7,600 stores by October 1, trading in roughly $2 billion in revenue for the opportunity to develop closer relations with hospitals and doctors and make people healthier in general.
The second-largest U.S. retailer's CEO Larry Merlo was pretty straightforward in a statement on the decision, saying: "We've come to the conclusion that cigarettes have no place in a setting where health care is being delivered." The announcement comes one day after World Cancer Day and follows a WHO cancer report which found that cancer cases are set to dramatically increase in the next twenty years, and that lung cancer is one of the most prevalent strains.
In a statement posted to the CVS website, the company explains the decision as "simply the right thing to do for the good of our customers and our company," adding:
The sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose – helping people on their path to better health. As the delivery of health care evolves with an emphasis on better health outcomes, reducing chronic disease and controlling costs, CVS Caremark is playing an expanded role through our 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners. By removing tobacco products from our retail shelves, we will better serve our patients, clients and health care providers while positioning CVS Caremark for future growth as a health care company.
The company also tweeted out the announcement:
On Twitter, responses were largely positive -- but some customers questioned the decision:
@CVS_Extra as a smoker, I see the pros and cons, see lots of business lost for cvs— Tina (@beachbound7) February 5, 2014
President Barack Obama praised CVS, saying the company "sets a powerful example." You can read his full statement here, which he obviously ties to ongoing efforts to overhaul health care.
The AP reports that the percentage of smokers in America has fallen from 40 percent in 1970 to roughly 18 percent today, but that the figure has stayed at 18 percent for a decade.