“CVS to Stop Selling Cigarettes” by Julie Merker


CVS Caremark Corporation is putting a lot on the line. Come October 2014, 7600 stores across the country will cease carrying tobacco products. This strategic move could reduce the CVS’s revenue by $2 billion! Company executives seem to be willing to take this risk to put the health and wellness of their customers above the bottom line of the company. Perhaps it makes sense that a company providing healthcare products and services to consumers would make this type of decision. Surprisingly, however, CVS is not the first major retailer to stop the sale of tobacco. Target actually made this same decision in 1996!

My initial reaction to media headlines like this is: Way to go, CVS! But when I stop to think about it, I find I have more questions about this type of corporate policy and any other legislation that mandates behavior directly related to a person’s health. I understand and appreciate the underlying good intentions to help people make healthier choices in their lives, but what kind of chain reaction could these types of decisions set off?

How far is CVS willing to take their mission? What about the junk food that lines CVS’s shelves – the aisles of candy bars, potato chips and ice cream? Will stores in states like Ohio eliminate the sale of liquor and beer? What about the food supplements and other diet products that have little efficacy or have potentially dangerous side effects? Any or all of these items could be seen as contradictory to a healthcare provider entity, which is what CVS is aiming to be.

Is this really what we need – more rules and regulations? I believe we all want to be healthy, and I’m all for supporting that endeavor. I wonder if mandates like smoking bans (Ohio 2006) or attempts to limit beverage sizes (New York 2013) are truly the way to go about solving the problem of obesity and disease. CVS reports that they will offer new services, including smoking cessation programs, which will help offset the reduction in profits from tobacco. I hope that CVS and other retailers looking to capitalize on American health will look at the research and find what works. I also hope that the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association and other interest groups can come together to prevent more cases of disease.