CVS Caremark has announced that the company will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products by October 1st, the first national pharmacy chain to do so, citing smoking's health risks.
The company says it will forgo the more than $1.5 billion in annual revenue from tobacco products that it usually earns.
In a "Viewpoint" article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Dr. Troyen Brennan, CVS Caremark's chief medical officer, says "the financial gain is outweighed by the paradox inherent in promoting health while contributing to tobacco-related deaths," a point of view shared by other medical associations.
In 2010, the American Pharmacists Association urged pharmacies to stop selling tobacco products.
Here's more about CVS' landmark announcement and other big moves by companies:
CVS Caremark CEO and President Larry Melo said ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products is a step in helping people achieve better health.
"Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose," he said.
Dr. Troyen Brennan, CVS Caremark's chief medical officer, points to a report from the Surgeon General last month that indicates tobacco use has led to direct medical costs that range from $132 billion to $176 billion annually.
Read More: 50 Years After the Surgeon General's Smoking Report
"Making cigarettes available in pharmacies in essence 'renormalizes' the product by sending the subtle message that it cannot be all that unhealthy if it is available for purchase where medicines are sold," Brennan writes in the JAMA article, adding that pharmacies in other developed countries do not sell cigarettes.
"The argument that pharmacies also sell tobacco-cessation products only heightens the paradox," Brennan wrote.
President Barack Obama issued the following statement Wednesday morning on the company's decision:
I applaud this morning's news that CVS Caremark has decided to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in its stores, and begin a national campaign to help millions of Americans quit smoking instead. As one of the largest retailers and pharmacies in America, CVS Caremark sets a powerful example, and today's decision will help advance my Administration's efforts to reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer, and heart disease, as well as bring down health care costs – ultimately saving lives and protecting untold numbers of families from pain and heartbreak for years to come. I congratulate – and thank – the CEO of CVS Caremark, Larry Merlo, the board of directors, and all who helped make a choice that will have a profoundly positive impact on the health of our country.
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