CVS First Major Pharmacy To Drop Tobacco Sales
By Dr. James Palermo // February 6, 2014
PROVIDING HEALTHCARE PRODUCTS AND SERVICES NOT COMPATIBLE WITH TOBACCO BUSINESS
ABOVE VIDEO: CNN’s Brian Todd reports on CVS’ decision to stop selling tobacco products.
CVS CAREMARK will soon be “walking the walk” when it comes to retail tobacco sales.
The country’s largest retail healthcare provider announced on Wednesday that selling cancer-causing products like tobacco conflicts with its mission to provide high quality products and services that improve the health of their customers through its pharmacies and Minute Clinic walk-in primary care centers.
TOBACCO PRODUCTS OFF CVS SHELVES BY OCT. 1
CVS will stop selling tobacco products at its 7,600 retail stores by October 1, and, in addition plans to launch an in-store and online anti-smoking campaign this spring.
The move will cost the company an estimated $2 billion in annual tobacco sales by no longer carrying the number-one cause of preventable death. However, CVS executives are hopeful that abandoning smokers will boost CVS’s recent efforts to expand its pharmacies and better position them as a primary provider of health care services, reach more profitable agreements with hospitals and insurers, and appeal to the expanding number of newly insured under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
“We have about 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners helping patients manage chronic problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease, all of which are linked to smoking,” Larry J. Merlo, chief executive of CVS, told the New York Times. “We came to the decision that cigarettes and providing healthcare just don’t go together in the same setting.”
RETAIL HEALTH CLINICS RAPIDLY EXPANDING TO MEET DEMANDS
As consumers increasingly turn to retail health clinics, primarily because of convenience and cost, the number of clinics has grown rapidly to meet demand.
There are approximately 1,600 retail clinics in the U.S., with CVS’s 800 Minute Clinics making up the bulk of them. However, there are presently no Minute Clinics in the 14 CVS stores in Brevard County.
As primary care grows increasingly scarce in the face of a greater demand under the ACA, retail clinics are expected to expand and play a larger role in shoring up needed professional healthcare resources.
CVS SETS THE BAR ON COMMITMENT TO PREVENT TOBACCO USE
Other big players in the retail clinic/health and wellness space, such as Target, Walgreens and Walmart, are also facing identity crises because they sell the vice-oriented products that consumers demand alongside the products and services that enhance health and make them well.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a separate statement described CVS’s decision as “an unprecedented step in the retail industry” and urged other retailers to follow the company’s lead. She said, “[HHS] applauds CVS Caremark … for their leadership in helping to make the next generation tobacco-free.”
Target stopped selling tobacco in 1996, but Walmart and Walgreens so far haven’t said they’d follow CVS’s lead.
Walgreens, which has the largest number of retail pharmacies in the U.S., said it had been assessing its sales of tobacco products for some time. “We will continue to evaluate the choice of products our customers want, while also helping to educate them and providing smoking cessation products and alternatives that help to reduce the demand for tobacco products,” according to a statement released by the company.
CVS RECOGNIZED AS PROMOTER OF HEALTH, PREVENTER OF DISEASE
Although adult smoking rates have fallen from 43 percent of Americans in 1965 to the current 18 percent, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 480,000 people each year, and new evidence suggests it contributes to more illness and fatalities than previously thought.
CVS Pharmacy President Helena Foulkes said, “It was very important to us that, as we’re working with doctors and hospital systems and health plans, that they see us as an extension of their services,” adding, “It’s virtually impossible to be in the tobacco business when you want to be a health care partner to the health care system.”
President Obama, a former smoker, in a statement said the move “sets a powerful example” that could help the federal government’s “efforts to reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer and heart disease, as well as bring down health care costs—ultimately saving lives and protecting untold numbers of families from pain and heartbreak for years to come.”