CVS/Caremark announced this morning that it will stop selling tobacco products starting October 1.
The pharmacy chain said selling cancer-causing products was incompatible with its overall mission of improving health, both through its pharmacies and its MinuteClinic walk-in primary care centers. The company will forgo $2 billion in annual tobacco sales by no longer carrying the number-one cause of preventable death.
“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.”
CVS's 800 MinuteClinics are the country's largest provider of retail health care, and its staff does everything from writing prescriptions to providing vaccinations. The company's decision reveals the tension many retailers who provide medical services are likely to face as primary care increasingly spreads to supermarkets, drop-in centers, and other unconventional locations.