Editorial: Where CVS leads on tobacco, others will follow

CVS Caremark operates more pharmacy stores than any other company in the United States. Thus, when they lead, the other chains follow — for better or for worse.

In announcing this week that CVS stores nationwide will stop selling tobacco products by Oct. 1, the Rhode Island-based company is leading the industry in the right direction.

With the rise of in-store health care, the large pharmacy has become an increasingly odd place to stock row after row of disease-causing cigarettes. Of course, local drug stores like Barth’s are already devoid of cigarettes, but the goals of a “mom-and-pop” pharmacy and a chain of 7,600 stores aren’t always aligned.

Some might ask, what’s stopping CVS from halting the sale of beer, sweets, soda, or anything else that can be harmful?

The answer is simple: The use of tobacco accounts for the single largest preventable cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At least in the short run, the company is taking a big hit. CVS is estimating an annual loss of some $2 billion from doing away with tobacco sales and related products.

Still, many companies will follow suit. Others might not think they can afford to lose such a chunk of money, but the tide of public perception will turn in such a way where it’s greatly frowned upon for a chain pharmacy — where people go to get well — to sell tobacco.

Then it will become unaffordable to keep such products on the shelves.

And we’ll all be better off because of it.

cvs tobacco
Michael White photo | Cigarettes for sale at a CVS store Wednesday.