CVS Caremark, one of the largest pharmacy chains in the US, will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products, its chief executive has said. The announcement drew swift praise from President Barack Obama, who said the move would save lives.
The 7,600 CVS shops in the US will have tobacco products off the shelves by 1 October. CEO Larry Merlo said.
The move will cost the company about $ 2bn in annual revenue but is “the right thing to do”, he said.
“Tobacco products have no place in a setting where healthcare is delivered,” Merlo said in a videotaped statement posted on the publicly traded company’s website.
“When we asked ourselves where we expect to be in the future as a healthcare company, it became clear that removing tobacco products from our stores is the
right thing to do.” Merlo said CVS Caremark, which employs 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners, would be the first national pharmacy chain to take this action.
In a statement released by the White House, Obama, who has himself struggled with a cigarette habit since he was young, applauded the decision.
“As one of the largest retailers and pharmacies in America, CVS Caremark sets a powerful example, and today’s decision will help advance my Administration’s efforts to reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer, and heart disease, as well as bring down healthcare costs – ultimately saving lives and protecting untold numbers of families from pain and heartbreak for years to come,” Obama said.
About 18% of Americans are current cigarette smokers today.