Lawmakers Ramp Up Pressure on Other Drugstores to Yank Tobacco Products

Other drugstores chains are going to start feeling the congressional pressure this week to go the route of CVS and pull tobacco products from their shelves.

Drugstore chain CVS received praise from President Obama on Wednesday after announcing that it would stop selling tobacco products at its more than 7,600 stores across the country.


“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.”

Merlo made one political donation last year to his home-state senator, Jack Reed (D-R.I.), for $500.

Obama lauded Merlo in a statement, saying the drugstore chain set “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.”

After CVS announced its ban, their stock fell while Walgreens and Rite Aid shares went up.

Today at noon, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) will appear at a Hartford CVS along with local representatives of the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association to pressure other drugstores to follow suit.

Online campaign sites have sprung up asking Walgreens and Rite Aid to do the same.

“Good health and tobacco simply can’t be sold in the same store. Pharmacy companies cannot honestly promote health products and profit from death and addiction. We’re urging all pharmacies to follow CVS in stopping cigarette sales  – sacrificing some profits but saving lives. Customers will thank and reward pharmacies that help halt tobacco addiction, disease and death  –  so horribly costly in dollars and lives to all Americans,” Blumenthal said.


“Put your stores truly at the corner of happy and healthy, not death and addiction,” the senator added, taking a dig at Walgreens’ pitchline. “Instead of spreading the scourge of smoking, promote cessation. Selling cigarettes may be legal, but it’s not right.”

CVS has estimated its decision will cost $2 billion annually in revenue.

“The company understands that keeping people healthy by promoting wellness and encouraging prevention is a solid business decision that will also save lives.  I encourage other retailers – especially those in the health care industry – to follow the bold lead of CVS Caremark by refusing to sell cigarettes and tobacco products,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.).

“Positive actions such as this from CVS Caremark, combined with the expansion of preventive benefits through the Affordable Care Act, will help continue to lower our nation’s health care costs and improve Americans’ quality of life,” Cardin added.

UPDATE 12 p.m.: Sens. Blumenthal, Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) sent letters to Walgreens CEO Gregory Wasson, Rite Aid CEO John Standley, CEO of Rite Aid Corporation, and president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) Steven Anderson urging all drugstores to pull tobacco from the shelves.

“We write to urge [you], as a company committed to the health and wellness of its customers, to follow CVS Caremark’s plan to stop selling tobacco products and promote cessation efforts in all stores,” the letter states. “We recognize the legality of selling and profiting from tobacco products, however we also believe that you are in a position to have a major positive impact on public health. By reducing the availability of cigarettes and other tobacco products and increasing access to tobacco cessation products, [you have] the power to further foster the health and wellness of [your] customers and send a critical message to all Americans—and especially children—about the dangers of tobacco use.”


“CVS Caremark’s bold and admirable decision will complement federal efforts to save lives and reduce health care costs through continued implementation of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, access to smoking cessation therapies with no out-of-pocket expenses under the Affordable Care Act, and the ongoing success of public awareness campaigns like CDC’s ‘Tips from a Former Smoker’ and FDA’s new ‘The Real Cost’ campaign,” they  added.


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