CVS halts sale of tobacco products

By Alanna Bayarin, Contributing Writer

CVS stores are no longer selling tobacco products and are encouraging users to quit smoking.

The company announced on Sept. 3 that, in addition to removing tobacco products from their shelves, they would be modifying their official name to reflect the change and so will now be known as CVS Health.

Stern freshman Jennifer Barba said that CVS is setting a good example, but questions the effectiveness of the ban because it limits consumers’ choices within CVS.

“I feel like it sends a positive message from CVS, but it isn’t like they don’t sell other things that are bad for your health,” Barba said. “I think it will just cause smokers to stop shopping there. If a smoker needs to buy cigarettes, they may be losing a customer.”

CAS senior Gil Jo said he and other smokers will buy cigarettes at other stores.

“Even though CVS won’t sell cigarettes, people will still find other ways to get them,” Jo said.

Consumers have the option to go elsewhere, including Walgreens and Duane Reade, which are not participating in a company-wide tobacco ban.

CVS customer Joe Lee, 70, said it the new policy will have positive health benefits.

“I think it’s good, because I’m a non-smoker and I think it’s a big health problem,” Lee said. “I would patronize it because of that.”

The company also launched a social media campaign called #OneGoodReason to go along with the policy changes. Smokers are encouraged to share their reasons to quit with the hashtag.

In a press release, the executive vice president of CVS Health Helena Foulkes talked about the origin of the social media campaign.

“After our news in February that we were quitting tobacco, we were struck by how many people had stories,” Foulkes said. “We thought it would be very powerful to give people a site or tool where they could share with each other.”

CVS president and CEO Larry Merlo justified the company’s decision to go tobacco-free on moral grounds.

“When we asked ourselves where we expect to be in the future as a healthcare company, it became clear that removing tobacco products from our stores was the right thing to do,” Merlo said in a recorded statement online.

The American Medical Association applauded CVS’s attempts to discourage tobacco use in a February statement after the plan was announced.

“We commend CVS for putting public health ahead of their bottom line and recognizing the need for pharmacies to focus on supporting health and wellness instead of contributing to disease and death caused by tobacco use,” the statement read. “We are hopeful that CVS’s decision to end the sale of tobacco products will spur other pharmacies to follow suit to help improve the nation’s health.”

A version of this appeared in the Tuesday, Sept. 9 print edition. Email Alanna Bayarin at [email protected]