CVS to phase out tobacco sales at all stores by Oct. 1

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by Shakara Robinson

RHODE ISLAND -- Smokers who choose CVS for tobacco products will have to find another store come October 1.

This after CVS Caremark announced Wednesday that it will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at its 7,600 CVS/pharmacy stores across the county, making the store the first national pharmacy chain to extinguish tobacco sales. 

The company says the move is in support of health and well-being of its patients and customers.

"Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS/pharmacy is the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health," said Larry J. Merlo, President and CEO, CVS Caremark. "Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose."

Evan Zeppos, Executive Director of Public Relations at Laughlin Constable, praised the controversial decision. He is not affiliated with either CVS or the tobacco industry but says the strategy is bold.

“There's little doubt that other competitors are going to look at this, and not just drugstores or pharmacies, but other businesses as do we want to have these products on the shelves?" Zeppos said.

The decision also sticks it to tobacco companies, the possible backlash that could follow would mean fewer stores selling cigarettes.

"The tobacco companies have been a war with government regulators and the marketplace for decades, Zeppos said."

Milwaukee smokers are also siding with CVS.

Mark Lafrenz recently grabbed a pack of cigarettes from an east side store. He says he won’t stop shopping at the chain, and said that smoking is a vice.

"No one really ought to be smoking. It is bad for me,” Lafrenz said.

Estimates put the company's revenue loss from tobacco shoppers at at $2 billion annually.

Zeppos says they’ll more than make up for it with a brand new image.

"They're someway or  another going to find a way to make more money still, whether it's because of the extra shelf space or their ability to reposition their brand as a stronger health and wellness company, Zeppos said."

CVS hasn’t revealed what it will replace tobacco with, but they do not currently carry the alternative smoking device, e-cigarettes.

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