CVS will no longer sell tobacco products in its pharmacies as of October 1, 2014. flickr/Montgomery County Planning Commission
CVS will no longer sell tobacco products in its pharmacies as of 10/1/14.  Photo: flickr/Montgomery County Planning Commission

Chances are you have either a CVS or Walgreens near your house.  You may even have both nearby if you are like me.  CVS, with over 7,600 locations across the country, recently announced that it will no longer sell tobacco products in its pharmacies as of October 1, 2014.  It has been reported that this decision will result initially in an annual loss of roughly $2 billion, or 3% of overall sales, for the national pharmacy chain.  Two billion dollars is a great deal of money to, by choice, lose by anyone’s standards.  So just why did CVS do this? Hint – for more than just the health of its customers.

The move, which has been both cheered and ridiculed alike, comes as CVS positions itself as a provider of healthcare and wellness – an ever growing industry thanks to an aging population and legislation such as the Affordable Care Act.  As outlined by John Natoli of GreenBiz, ‘By abandoning tobacco sales, CVS now can be taken much more seriously as caring for the health of its customers. This is a great example of the challenges that eco-friendly and socially responsible organizations face constantly.’

Most would agree that tobacco negatively affects human health.  So, to not sell tobacco products make sense if you are in the business of providing healthcare and wellness.  To do otherwise would be a contradiction.

When you take a second to ponder the consequences of this landmark decision, you will likely conclude that CVS is looking at not only its’ customers sustainability but also its own sustainability as a company, as CVS Pharmacy President Helena Foulkes tells USA Today.

Since making the announcement, many have hypothesized that other pharmacies and retailers will follow suit. Is CVS’ decision going to stop people from smoking?  Probably not, but time will tell – smoker or not.

By Chase Ezell

Chase has served in various public relations, communications and sustainability roles. He is a former managing editor for Earth911.com.