CVS is the largest pharmacy chain in the US. Its annual sales are $123 billion and tobacco products account for $2 billion of its sales. CVS has concluded that the sale of tobacco products, is inconsistent with its mission of being a provider of healthcare products, and increasingly healthcare services. It also distinguishes CVS from Walgreen's which is its major competitor. Walgreen's opposed a proposal by San Francisco to prevent pharmacies from selling tobacco products. They argued that it was unfair to permit other retail outlets to sell tobacco products while preventing the sale by pharmacies. CVS has taken a strategic step by positioning itself as a healthcare company. It is not a retail store. It won't be long before Walgreen's and other retailers take a similar step.
The percent of American's who smoke has declined from 42% to 18% but the rate of decline has decelerated in recent years. Public health advocates believe that limiting access to tobacco products may help to increase the rate of decline in the smoking population. For example, steps taken in New York City to limit access and raise prices has reduced the percent of smokers in NYC to 14%. Close to a half million Americans lose their lives every year as a result of smoking related illnesses. Most smokers know that smoking is bad for their health. It is difficult, however, for many people to give up a practice to which they are addicted in order to prevent health problems that are likely to occur in the distant future. This is a problem similar to fighting climate change. As long as the most serious impacts of climate change will occur in the future, it is hard to get the public interested in taking the necessary actions today. I guess this is part of living in the now.