CVS is stubbing out smokes from all of its stores this fall, a move lauded by city health experts yesterday. The pharmacy chain announced that starting Oct. 1 it will cease selling tobacco products because it didn’t want his stores promoting cigarettes along with other healthy goods.
“Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose,” CVS President Larry J. Merlo said in a statement.
The chain, which has 132 locations in the five boroughs, said it will lose about $2 billion in annual revenue by losing smokes. Some CVS customers Wednesdaysaid they didn’t have any problem with the change. Joe Dasaro, 57, a former smoker from Brooklyn, said if people really want to get a pack, they can simply go to another store.
“It’s their choice. The people that shop at CVS have their choice to shop there,” he said.
Audrey Silk, the founder of the New York City Citizens Lobby Against Smoker Harassment, said she didn’t have any problem with a private company making the decision, but was upset that CVS became a “victim in the war against smoking.”
“Let them hang by their own petard,”she said.
Health experts and anti-smoking proponents, however, praised the move.
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the decision was a common sense action that will help smokers kick the habit.
“Just as no responsible doctor would put a cigarette machine in the office lobby, no responsible pharmacy should put cigarettes behind the counter,” he said in a statement.
The percentage of adult smokers in the city decreased from 21.5% in 2002 — before the city enacted its smoking ban in bars and restaurants — to 15.5 % two years ago, according to the city’s health department. Dr. Mary O’Sullivan, the director of the Smoking Cessation Program at Mount Sinai-St. Luke’s Hospital, acknowledged that while smokers may simply just go to the next store to get cigarettes, CVS’s move has important consequences for the entire industry.
She predicted and hoped that other pharmacy chains follow suit.
“It’s a cultural change. It’s a leadership statement and that is the most important thing,” she said.
Rite Aid said it would evaluate its product offering to meet the needs of its customers but stressed that it sells both tobacco and smoking cessation products in all of its stores. Duane Reade and its parent company Walgreens, didn’t return messages for comment.
Deputy Commissioner for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Dr. Susan Kansagra said removing any visible images of cigarettes in stores not only stops people from buying them impulsively, it helps recovering smokers buy products that will help them stop from lighting up.
“We are changing the environment to make sure that they have a more healthy choice,” she said.