Let me preface this post by stating that I don’t have any commercial, personal, financial, or any other ties to CVS.
As most of you who’ve entered the major pharmacy chains such as CVS, Walgreen’s, and Rite Aid know, right behind the counter is a very large wall of cigarettes. All different brands. Different deals (buy 2 packs, get a third free). Stores are known to stock products that people will buy on a whim by the check-out counter. That’s why you’ll also notice gum, candy, popular magazines, and other miscellaneous items in the front too. People who smoke, or even used to smoke, have the unfortunate experience of being seduced by the cigarettes while waiting to pay for other items. “Hey, Marlboro is on sale this week. Let me get a carton or two!” “I haven’t smoked in a few weeks, but I’m under a crazy amount of stress. Discounted cigarettes! What the heck – I’ll get a pack or two . . . .”
Many people over the years have challenged pharmacies, claiming that they have some chutzpah selling cigarettes. After all, most of us use pharmacies to purchase products pertaining to our health such as medications, skin care products, first aid items, etc. It’s almost as if having cigarettes in the same vicinity somewhat makes them okay or not so bad.
Most pharmacies will state that they also sell nicotine replacement products and other smoking cessation products. Indeed, pharmacists are a great resource for people trying to quit. Nevertheless, the idea of pharmacies selling cigarettes leaves a bad taste in our mouths. In a way, it’s analogous to seeing a cigarette machine in the waiting room of your doctor’s office.
CVS recently decided to stop selling cigarettes by October of this year. This unexpected decision, which is going to cost them $2 billion in annual revenue (according to one article I saw) has been lauded by doctors, medical associations, and politicians.
Yes, I’m sure it’s true that there’s a financial motive as well. Maybe they want to rebrand themselves as the pharmacy that cares about people’s health in the hopes that this will attract a certain type of consumer. It’s still a pretty bold move. With the popularity of smoking decreasing overall, maybe other large retail pharmacies will follow suit.
Almost all of us visit retail pharmacies, at least from time to time. Limiting tobacco purchases to tobacco stores and other less accessible areas may end up helping people quit and help those who quit stay tobacco free.