PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — In a surprise move, the pharmacy chain CVS says it will discontinue the sale of all tobacco products on Oct. 1.
“We’ve come to the conclusion that tobacco in a setting where health care is being administered — those two just don’t go together,” said Larry Merlo, president and CEO of CVS.
That means no more cigarettes at the nation’s second largest pharmaceutical chain.
“We are part of the health care team, and it’s really antithetical to have a product in our store — tobacco — which actually causes these type of diseases,” said Dr. Troy Brennan, CVS’s chief medical officer.
Local smokers at CVS didn’t seem to care.
“Really doesn’t bother me,” said Peter Kopko of Beechview. “I got my cigarettes here. Looks like I’ll just have to drive further down the street.”
“If people are going to want to smoke — because it’s so addictive — they’re going to find their cigarettes elsewhere,” added Anne Snell of South Fayette.
CVS predicts that this decision will cost the company $2 billion in annual sales, but it’s betting that the positive publicity will attract more prescriptions from Babyboomers whose medical needs will only grow in the future — and whose potential for revenue for the company far exceeds cigarette smokers.
Still, it comes at a time when the leading drug store chains — Walgreens, CVS, Walmart and RiteAid — are battling for market share.
Walmart wouldn’t comment, but Walgreens told KDKA money editor Jon Delano that it has been and will continue to evaluate selling tobacco while RiteAid said it would continue to sell both tobacco and smoking cessation products.
Smoking-related illnesses kill 443,000 people every year, and tobacco use has dropped in the United States from 42 percent of adults in 1964 to just 18 percent today.
“Tobacco’s no good. I used to smoke four or five packs about 20 years ago,” Bob Evans of Beechview admitted.
CVS is betting that downward trend continues.