CVS Caremark, the nation’s largest second-largest drug store chain, announced Wednesday that it would stop selling tobacco products in its 7,600 stores by Oct. 1, becoming the first drugstore chain to adopt such a policy.
Under the new policy, CVS estimated that it will lose out on approximately $2 billion of annual tobacco-related revenue. However, this figure is only a fraction of its $123 billion in annual sales, according to reports from 2012.
Mike DeAngelis, director of public relations for CVS Caremark, said the financial losses linked to tobacco sales aren’t a huge concern, adding that health is the company’s main focus.
“Pharmacies are becoming more involved in chronic disease management to help patients with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes,” he wrote in an e-mail interview. “All of these conditions are made worse by smoking and cigarettes have no place in a setting where healthcare is delivered.”
Robert Winfield, the University’s chief health officer, said reducing access to tobacco products will positively affect communities nationwide. He called tobacco a “substantial killer” and said any means to reduce its use could be beneficial.
Winfield acknowledged that CVS’s decision to take tobacco off the market won’t stop everyone from smoking, but this kind of policy coupled with community pressure may change the minds of some smokers.
“When we were deciding to have the campus become smoke-free, we knew that we would be addressing the community issue because we were going to change the environment and make it a less welcoming place for people to smoke,” Winfield said. “The fact that CVS is choosing to not carry tobacco is really an interface between the community and policy. They will influence people by making it harder to get.”
Although LSA sophomore Jordan Roth is a regular cigarette smoker, he said he supports CVS’s decision to halt tobacco sales.
“I’d have to go ahead and be a hypocrite and say that it’s admirable if it’s for reasons like not wanting kids to smoke,” he said. “I smoke myself and I don’t think I should and I don’t think other people should.”
CVS’s decision stands in stark contrast to its competitor, the Walgreen Company, which appealed and managed to overturn a San Francisco anti-tobacco sales law in 2008. CVS is second only to Walgreens in retail locations nationwide, but analysts say CVS leads in sales. Target was the last major chain to cease tobacco sales in 1996.
Locally, this policy change may push more Ann Arborites to buy their tobacco products at smaller convenience stores and drugstores like Walgreens, which opened a location in January near CVS. Local Walgreens management was not available for comment.
Bill Gee, an employee at State Street Liquor, said he doesn’t expect CVS’s policy change to increase traffic to the liquor store, which does sell tobacco products. He added that people who smoke cigarettes will simply find other places to buy them.
However, J Evitts, a cashier at the 7-Eleven on State Street, said the store sells a lot of tobacco products and affirmed that CVS’s new policy will help sales at 7-Eleven.
Roth, the student, said he likes the familiarity of local businesses and shops for his cigarettes at an Ann Arbor convenience store. His retailer will occasionally provide them for a discounted price. However, he added that he would consider shopping at Walgreens, which is closer to his house, and likely sells its cigarettes for lower prices.
According to a 2009 study by the Center for Global Tobacco Control, less than 5 percent of national cigarette sales occur in pharmacies.
— Daily News Editor Rachel Premack contributed to this report.