CVS: Tobacco products gone by October 1

APhA applauds move toward focus on health and wellness

Calling the decision “simply the right thing to do for the good of our customers and our company,” CVS Caremark will stop selling all tobacco products at its more than 7,600 CVS/pharmacy locations by October 1, the company announced this morning. The announcement comes a week after the U.S. Surgeon General issued renewed warnings about tobacco use on the 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General’s landmark report linking smoking and poor health.

“As the delivery of health care evolves with an emphasis on better health outcomes, reducing chronic disease, and controlling costs, CVS Caremark is playing an expanded role in providing care through our pharmacists and nurse practitioners,” said Larry J. Merlo, President and CEO, CVS Caremark. “The significant action we're taking today by removing tobacco products from our retail shelves further distinguishes us in how we are serving our patients, clients, and health care providers and better positions us for continued growth in the evolving health care marketplace.”

APhA, citing policy approved by the House of Delegates in 2010, applauded CVS Caremark’s decision to join a growing list of pharmacies that do not sell tobacco products. “APhA is opposed to the sale of tobacco in pharmacies, as demonstrated by significant policy urging the removal of tobacco products from pharmacies and facilities that include pharmacies,” APhA Vice President and CEO Thomas E. Menighan, BSPharm, MBA, ScD(Hon), wrote in a blog post. “Pharmacists are health care providers, and we must commit to limiting access to products that are known to cause disease and poor health. We are thrilled that CVS Caremark is making a courageous move by giving up tobacco sales in favor of moving the organization toward a focus on health and wellness. This action adds CVS Caremark to a long list of pharmacies that have already stopped the sale of these dangerous products.”

“CVS Caremark believes that now is the time for retailers, perhaps spurred by policy makers, to eliminate sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products by institutions that also have pharmacies,” Troyen A. Brennan, MD, MPH, Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of CVS Caremark, wrote with a colleague in a JAMA article released online in conjunction with the announcement. “The CVS retail pharmacy, pharmacy benefit management, and retail-clinic companies are, like others, increasingly developing programs to improve the quality of care and reduce health care costs. Selling tobacco products is clearly antithetical to both goals. Although the sale of tobacco products in CVS pharmacies produces more than $1.5 billion in revenues annually, the financial gain is outweighed by the paradox inherent in promoting health while contributing to tobacco-related deaths. As a result, CVS has decided to cease tobacco sales in a phased approach over the next year.”

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, resulting in more than 480,000 deaths each year. While the prevalence of cigarette smoking has decreased from approximately 42% of adults in 1965 to 18% today, the rate of reduction in smoking prevalence has stalled in the past decade.

"As pharmacists step up to provide care to their patients, we cannot continue to sell known health hazards in our pharmacies,” said APhA President Steven T. Simenson, BSPharm, FAPhA, FACA, FACVP, who is a community pharmacist. “To improve the health of all Americans, pharmacy professionals must step up and join the many pharmacies before them who have removed tobacco products from their shelves.”

Cities such as San Francisco and Boston have banned sales of cigarettes in pharmacies. Some prohibitions include e-cigarettes and forbid tobacco sales in big-box stores that have pharmacies.

In addition to removing cigarettes and tobacco products for sale, CVS Caremark will launch a national smoking cessation program in the spring. The program will be available broadly across all CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic locations and will offer additional comprehensive programs for CVS Caremark pharmacy benefit management plan members to help them to quit smoking, the company said.

APhA is urging patients to talk with their pharmacist if they want to quit using tobacco products. Pharmacists are trained in the latest smoking cessation techniques and are available to help patients choose a product, understand how it works and possible adverse effects, and provide ongoing coaching to enhance treatment successes.