CVS Caremark, the second-largest drugstore chain in the country, announced that it will stop selling tobacco products by October.
The company’s move was yet another sign of its metamorphosis into becoming more of a health care provider than a largely retail business, with its stores offering more miniclinics and health advice to aid customers visiting its pharmacies.
The company estimated that its decision would shave an estimated $2 billion in sales from customers buying cigarettes and other products, including incidental items like gum that those shoppers might also purchase. That is a mere dent in its overall sales of $123 billion in 2012, the latest figures available.
I don’t think anyone has any delusion that this will stop people from smoking; they’ll just go someplace else for their tobacco, like a gas station or the convenience store across the street.
There are critics of the move — yes, there’s a smoker’s rights movement — who say that CVS is being a bit hypocritical. After all, you can still get beer, wine, and junk food at their stores, and they are also not just what the doctor ordered. (Actually some credible studies show that a little red wine is good for your cardiovascular system.) True, but then beer, wine, and junk food in moderation aren’t fatal. Anything in excess — even water — can be deadly. I think the point CVS is making is that it’s ludicrous for a place that markets healthcare to be selling stuff that when used as directed will kill you.