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CVS Pharmacy to Stop Tobacco Sales

Updated: Thursday, February 6 2014, 03:31 PM CST

Two billion dollars up in smoke. That's how much CVS Pharmacy is expected to lose after the drug-store giant announced it will no longer sell tobacco.

The change will happen in all CVS stores by October 1. The company says the move has to deal with the changing health care industry, their plan to expand their in-store clinics and eventually their goal of becoming a viable alternative for the ever-growing line at the doctor's office.

But not all CVS Pharmacy customers are pleased. Especially smokers.

"Wow. I'm pretty surprised at that because I know they do a lot of volume of cigarettes in there. I'm just curious as to why," Smoker Gayle Cosby said.

UIS business professor Dyanne Ferk says the change has a lot to do with how you, the customer, view CVS as a pharmacy.

"They've made a very deliberate decision to position themselves in the marketplace as a health care provider, a health care organization and cigarettes aren't consistent with that branding," Ferk said.

But cigarettes do bring in 2-billion dollars a year for CVS.

"Out of 123 billion it's a drop in the bucket. The bigger concern has to deal with those convenience or impulse buys that smokers make," Ferk said.

That could translate into more lost revenue for the second-largest pharmacy chain in the nation.

But for CVS Pharmacy customer Jim McGee-- who lost his wife because of cigarettes-- the move just makes him more loyal.

"That makes me feel good. That's a good thing. I wish they'd all do that," McGee said.

Organizations like the American Lung Association in Illinois wish so too.

"We've been wanting this for many years. We're very happy that a large chain is being so proactive," ALA Advocacy Vice President Kathy Drea said.

But it's not clear whether other chains will be proactive too. Analysts say it will all depend on what happens after all 7,600 CVS locations take cigarettes off the shelf.

"[CVS is] losing two billion but they might be saving lives," Cosby said.

This change could also put a dent in the cigarette industry in general, which has been watching the adult smoking rate slip from 42% in 1965 to less than 18 percent today.

CVS Pharmacy to Stop Tobacco Sales


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