THE cigarette rack at the CVS Pharmacy in Kanawha City is well stocked with a wide range of brands. By Oct. 1, the rack will be gone. CVS is getting out of the tobacco-selling business.
"As a leader of the health care community focused on improving health outcomes, we are pledging to help millions of Americans quit smoking," Larry Merlo, president and CEO of the company said in a video announcement.
While the sales lost are only $2 billion of its $123 billion in annual sales, officials say the chain of 7,600 stores will see their profits drop by 17 cents per share.
Maybe not. Maybe this will be a marketing tool. Maybe customers will be more likely to shop at a place that is not only smoke-free but tobacco free.
"We're really excited about this and commend CVS for taking this step and putting health ahead of immediate profits," Cinny Kittle, director of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free West Virginia, told Daily Mail Business Editor Jared Hunt.
The U.S. surgeon general pronounced cigarettes as hazardous to one's health a half-century ago. Yet more than two generations later, people are still lighting up and voluntarily becoming nicotine addicts more than 40 years since television dropped all cigarette advertisements.
Undoubtedly, this decision will affect the treasuries of the federal government and the 50 states, who collected a combined $17.7 billion from tobacco taxes in 2011, according to the Tax Policy Center.
West Virginia collected $110 million, down from $115 million two years earlier. This is lung money. If governments must take billions from tobacco addicts, let the governments devote those funds to research in tobacco-related cancers and prevention.
CVS is passing up profits from tobacco products. The nation's governments should begin weaning themselves as well.
But the marketplace ultimately will decide if stores will continue to sell tobacco. If CVS sees an increase in sales elsewhere that more than make up the loss from dropping tobacco, other stores will follow. That would make it more difficult to obtain tobacco, which could lead to fewer and fewer people continuing or beginning the filthy habit.