With its mission to promote health care, the nation's second-largest drugstore chain CVS will halt tobacco sales in all of its stores starting Wednesday. Health experts are hoping the move will be followed by other major drugstore chains.
To revitalize its image as a health care company, CVS Caremark announced a corporate name change to CVS Health, effective immediately. Retail stores will still be known as CVS/Pharmacy. CVS, which has nearly 7,700 retail locations, is the second-biggest drugstore chain in the USA, behind Walgreens. It manages the pharmacy benefits for 65 million members with 900 walk-in medical clinics and has steadily expanded the services they provide.
Earlier this year, CVS had said that it would stop selling tobacco products on Oct. 1, however the cigars and cigarettes that used to fill the shelves behind store cash registers were taken off at midnight and replaced with stop-smoking aids like nicotine gum and other products.
In March 2010, the American Pharmacists Association had called for stoppage of tobacco products and even though several small, independent chains have abided by the association's request, CVS is the very first large store chain to act upon the suggestion.
"CVS' announcement to stop selling tobacco products fully a month early sends a resounding message to the entire retail industry and to its customers that pharmacies should not be in the business of selling tobacco," Matthew Myers, president of the Washington-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told USA Today. "This is truly an example of a corporation leading and setting a new standard."
In recent years, CVS and other drugstores have delved deeper into customer health care. Rebranding itself as a company focused on health could prove gainful for the drugstore as it seeks to appeal to medical partners that can help it overcome the gap between patients and their doctors.
The company has plans to launch programs to help people stop smoking. Its smoking cessation effort includes assessing smoker’s response and readiness to quit smoking, education, medication support as well as personal coaching to help those trying to quit and keep them motivated.
Drugstores now provide a range of flu shots and vaccinations and their walk-in medical clinics can help check chronic illnesses like diabetes or high BP. CVS said its name change reflects its broader commitment to health care.
The company said it could not sell tobacco any longer in a setting where health care is delivered, and the presence of tobacco was hard to defend when it tried teaming up with hospital groups and doctors to help with patient care.