States Ask Retailers to Inhale CVS’s Anti-Tobacco Policy

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Last month, CVS Caremark Corporation (NYSE:CVS) said it would halt the sale of tobacco products in its stores that also have pharmacies. Now, more than two dozen state attorneys are asking a handful of retail giants to do the same. According to Time, twenty-eight state attorneys have called on Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), Rite Aid (NYSE:RAD), Walgreens (NYSE:WAG), Kroger (NYSE:KR), and Safeway (NYSE:SWY) to stop selling tobacco products in their pharmacies.

They sent letters to the retailers on Sunday, urging them to stop selling in stores that also sell health products, and maintained, “There is a contradiction in having these dangerous and devastating tobacco products on the shelves of a retail chain that services health care needs.” The attorneys noted in the letter that they are hoping to soon welcome a “time when cigarettes simply cannot be purchased from a business that sells products prescribed by doctors.”

According to Time, the charge that comes just one month after CVS’s big announcement is led by Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York and Mark DeWine of Ohio, and twenty-eight states and territories including Mississippi, New Hampshire, and Utah support the new push. Although the attorneys’ letters do not threaten any legal action for continuing to sell tobacco products, that could change in the future.

It all comes down to where retailers’ pharmacies are located. Public health officials and pharmacists have long said it is hypocritical to sell medications, even smoking-cessation products, in the same stores where cigarettes are also being purchased, and that’s why CVS made the executive decision back in February to stop selling tobacco products. Especially now that retail pharmacies have shifted their role in the health-care community, investing in delivering medical services, the Lowell, Massachusetts-based company felt more pressure to halt its sale of cigarettes, and now, a number of retailers are now feeling those same pains.

According to Time, CVS will remove cigarettes and all tobacco products from its 7,600 pharmacies nationwide by October 1, and that will cost the retailer an estimated $1.5 billion in annual revenue. The retailer has now won the support of a number of different health agencies, including President Obama, and he said in a statement back in February, “As one of the largest retailers and pharmacies in America, CVS Caremark sets 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 costs.”

One would think that with all the fanfare CVS enjoyed from its announcement, its competitors would consider following suit, but that wasn’t the case for Wal-Mart, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Kroger, or Safeway. None of the companies have shown any interest in following CVS’s lead since the company announced the ban last month, despite the support of public health officials, and that’s why the state attorneys took it upon themselves this week to push them personally.

It is unclear how these companies will respond to this new push from more than two dozen officials, but the attorney generals at least tried to get the ball rolling. It’ll be up to Wal-Mart, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Kroger, and Safeway to decide how they want to proceed in the future.

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