CVS: Congrats on quitting!

It’s not like it’s shocking or headline news that “smoking kills.” I mean, we don’t refer to cigarettes as “cancer sticks” for nothing. The producers don’t put explicit warnings on each pack informing the consumer of the risks of tobacco use for their amusement. The risks and consequences are real. Yet, this reality hasn’t stopped tobacco companies from earning billions.

Recently, though, we may have seen the beginning of what could be the collapse of tobacco sales everywhere.

CVS Caremark, the largest drug store chain in US sales, announced in February that it planned to stop selling all tobacco products by October this year. CVS is the first of the major tobacco distributors to make such a statement, and according to the secretary of Health and Services, Kathleen Sebelius, this decision will have a “considerable impact.”

Other large companies, such as Wal-Mart, Rite-Aid, and even some dollar stores continue to sell tobacco products at a high rate, while Walgreens is said to be “assessing” their tobacco sales. Will they follow suit and be the second billion-dollar tobacco distributor to end their sales? Will the potential message sent by such a decision offset the loss of billions for these other companies? CVS seems to think so.

CVS tosses out cigarettes. Graphic by Katie Gibson
CVS tosses out cigarettes. Graphic by Katie Gibson

Although the $2 billion loss in sales that CVS will likely experience will hardly be felt when compared to the $123 billion in sales they recorded in 2012, the message it sends is far more powerful than any amount of money can illustrate. This decision by CVS is what anti-tobacco campaigns have been fighting for since, well, forever. Now, what seems to maybe have become a lost cause, or an “agree to disagree” issue, has regained attention, and more notably, momentum. Regardless of which side of the argument you fall on (rights to smoke and treat your body how you want versus personal health being policed) the magnitude of the issue can’t be ignored.

The fact that the largest drug store chain in the US views this issue as relevant and important enough to risk billions on, as well as many customer’s long-time loyalty, speaks volumes about the potential effects of such a statement. By ending all sales of tobacco, CVS is truly committing to a whole new era of promoting health. This decision puts the company into a classification of its own, and whether seen as positive or negative, there’ll unquestionably be a “considerable impact.” What type of impact will this be? I guess the rest of us will have to join Walgreens and Wal-Mart as they wait to assess the impact CVS’s decision has.