CVS will stop selling tobacco products

CVS Caremark announced Wednesday that its stores will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products by Oct. 1, saying the products are inconsistent with the pharmacy chain’s role in the health care system.

The Rhode Island-based company estimated that the move will mean losing $2 billion a year from “the tobacco shopper.”

The announcement comes as chain pharmacies seek a larger role in health care delivery. CVS and many of its competitors offer in-store clinics, with nurse practitioners or other medical providers who address common illnesses such as sore throats and flu and who administer vaccines.

“In this context, the sale of tobacco products seems contradictory, especially because pharmacists can provide nicotine-replacement distribution and counseling,” Dr. Troyen A. Brennan, CVS Caremark’s chief medical officer, and Dr. Steven A. Schroeder wrote in an opinion article published online by the Journal of the American Medical Association Wednesday.

“Moreover, the usual excuses for selling tobacco products in pharmacies, such as avoiding sales to minors and keeping cigarettes behind the counter, become much less convincing as pharmacies expand their role in health care,” they wrote.

Brennan and Schroeder noted that the American Pharmacists Association urged pharmacies to stop selling tobacco products in 2010, and that according to one survey, only 2 percent of pharmacists supported pharmacies’ sale of tobacco products.

The company said it will begin a “robust” smoking cessation program this spring.