CVS quits tobacco and shifts focus to health care

BY Ayan Sheikh  September 3, 2014 at 11:35 AM EDT

CVS Caremark stopped selling tobacco products in all of its CVS pharmacy stores this week, ahead of a schedule announced earlier this year. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Calmon1

CVS Caremark stopped selling tobacco products in all of its CVS pharmacy stores this week, ahead of a schedule announced earlier this year. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Calmon1

CVS, the nation’s second largest drug store-chain is discontinuing the sale of tobacco products in all of its stores effective immediately- making it the first national chain to do so. The company is also changing its corporate name to CVS Health in a bid to reflect the company’s commitment to broader health care.

Despite the name-change, signs on CVS’ roughly 7,700 drugstores won’t change, so the tweak may not register with shoppers, the Associated Press reports.

Nicotine gum and quit smoking signs will replace cigarette boxes on CVS shelves. The drug store chain will also launch a new campaign aimed at providing education, medication and assessments for customers looking to end their tobacco habit.

Chief Executive Officer, Larry Merlo said the move to ban tobacco sales will cost CVS approximately $2 billion in annual revenue. However, he believes he can make up the losses through developing new business relationships with healthcare companies.

“We’re doing more and more to extend the front lines of health care,” Merlo said.

In March 2010, a few independent drugstore chains stopped the sale of tobacco after the American Pharmacists Association called for the ban. CVS’ decision to end the sale has health care officials hoping other major chains like Walgreens will follow suit.