CVS Caremark will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at its more than 7,600 CVS/pharmacy stores across the U.S. by Oct. 1, making CVS/pharmacy the first national pharmacy chain to take this step in support of the health and well-being of its patients and customers, according to the Rhode Island-based company.
“Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS/pharmacy is the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health,” said Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Caremark. “Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.
“As the delivery of healthcare 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,” he added. “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 healthcare providers and better positions us for continued growth in the evolving healthcare marketplace.”
Smoking is the leading cause of premature disease and death in the U.S., with more than 480,000 deaths annually. While the prevalence of cigarette smoking has decreased from approximately 42 percent of adults in 1965 to 18 percent today, the rate of reduction in smoking prevalence has stalled in the past decade. More interventions, such as reducing the availability of cigarettes, are needed, according to CVS.
“CVS Caremark is continually looking for ways to promote health and reduce the burden of disease,” said CVS Caremark Chief Medical Officer Troyen A. Brennan, M.D., M.P.H. “Stopping the sale of cigarettes and tobacco will make a significant difference in reducing the chronic illnesses associated with tobacco use.”
In a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Viewpoint published online this morning, Brennan and co-author Steven A. Schroeder, director of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at University of California in San Francisco, writes, “The paradox of cigarette sales in pharmacies has become even more relevant recently, in large part because of changes in the pharmacy industry…Most pharmacy chains are retooling themselves as an integral part of the healthcare system. They are offering more counseling by pharmacists, an array of wellness products and outreach to clinicians and healthcare centers…Perhaps more important, pharmacies are moving into the treatment arena, with the advent of retail health clinics. These retail clinics, originally designed to address common acute infections, are gearing up to work with primary care clinicians to assist in treating hypertension, hyperlipidemia and diabetes—all conditions exacerbated by smoking.”
CVS Caremark’s decision to stop selling tobacco products is consistent with the positions taken by the American Medical Association, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and American Pharmacists Association. All have publicly opposed tobacco sales in retail outlets with pharmacies.
“As a leader of the healthcare community focused on improving health outcomes, we are pledging to help millions of Americans quit smoking,” said Merlo. “In addition to removing cigarettes and tobacco products for sale, we will undertake a robust national smoking cessation program.”
The program, to be launched this spring, is expected to include information and treatment on smoking cessation at CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic along with online resources. 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. Approximately seven in 10 smokers say they want to quit and about half attempt to quit each year.
“Every day, all across the country, customers and patients place their trust in our 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners to serve their healthcare needs,” said Helena B. Foulkes, president of CVS/pharmacy. “Removing tobacco products from our stores is an important step in helping Americans to quit smoking and get healthy.”
CVS says the decision to exit the tobacco category does not affect the company’s 2014 segment operating profit guidance, 2014 EPS guidance or the company’s five-year financial projections provided at its Dec. 18 Analyst Day. The company estimates that it will lose approximately $2 billion in revenues on an annual basis from the tobacco shopper, equating to approximately 17 cents per share. Given the anticipated timing for implementation of this change, the impact to 2014 earnings per share is expected to be in the range of 6 to 9 cents per share. The company says it has identified incremental opportunities that are expected to offset the profitability impact. CVS says this decision more closely aligns the company with its patients, clients and healthcare providers to improve health outcomes while controlling costs and positions the company for continued growth.
The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) is applauding CVS Caremark’s announcement that it will stop selling 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,” said Thomas E. Menighan, American Pharmacists Association EVP and CEO. “Pharmacists are healthcare 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.”
Added Steven T. Simenson, APhA president and community pharmacist, “We welcome CVS Caremark’s commitment to health and wellness and its promise to remove tobacco products from their stores. It has been 50 years since the first Surgeon General’s report linked smoking and poor health, increasing our understanding of the devastating health and financial burdens of tobacco use. As pharmacists step up to provide care to their patients, we cannot continue to sell known health hazards in our pharmacies. 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.”
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also is applauding CVS’ move. She called it “an unprecedented step in the retail industry” and one that “will have considerable impact.”
“Last month, I called on all sectors of the United States—from businesses to local and state governments to the faith community—to join in the Obama Administration’s sustained effort to make the next generation tobacco-free,” she said. “Smoking takes an enormous toll on our friends, families and communities. As we know from the recently released 50th anniversary Surgeon General report on smoking and health, nearly 500,000 Americans die early each year due to smoking, and smoking costs us $289 billion annually. Each day, more than 3,200 youth under age 18 in the United States try their first cigarette and more than 700 kids under age 18 become daily smokers. If we fail to reverse course, 5.6 million American children alive today will die prematurely due to smoking. This is unacceptable.
“We need an all-hands-on-deck effort to take tobacco products out of the hands of America’s young generation, and to help those who are addicted to quit,” she added. “Today’s CVS Caremark announcement helps bring our country closer to achieving a tobacco-free generation. I hope others will follow their lead in this important new step to curtail tobacco use.”