BY REBECCA JASULEVICZ
Today, about 19% of the American population can be seen lighting up cigarettes and other tobacco products. In early February, CVS Caremark announced that it would no longer sell these products starting October 1.
CVS pharmacy stores can be found in more than 7,600 locations nationwide and more than 800 of those stores contain MinuteClinics, medical clinics within the pharmacies, making it the largest pharmacy in the United States.
Larry Merlo, the president and CEO of CVS Caremark, stated, “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.”
Stopping the sale of cigarettes will cost CVS Caremark an estimated $2 billion, yet the company sees this as a necessity in order to put their customers’ health as their priority.
A supervisor from East Stroudsburg’s CVS/pharmacy said, “The phase out is basically going to depend on area. It will probably be a process where we stop receiving certain kinds of cigarettes in our shipments.”
Most tobacco products will still be available at store locations in the meantime, but toward the summer, certain brands may no longer be stocked or refilled.
“Good for them,” said ESU student and Managing Editor of “The Stroud Courier,” Victoria Krukenkamp. “I know they’ve been working on changing their image for some time. I can understand the public relations move to stop selling cigarettes because they aim to become a healthcare center more than a convenience store.”
While CVS will be ridding itself of tobacco, its nicotine patches and gums will continue to be available.
The company plans to launch a smoking-cessation program that will provide information and treatment for those who wish to quit smoking. This program is expected to launch this spring and trials have been underway throughout the past year.
ESU student and smoker Emily Fox said, “I think it makes sense, since they’re all about wellness. But business doesn’t normally follow sense, fairness, and logic, so what’s next? Soda pop, potato chips, and candy?”
To this concern, representatives of the company have stated that CVS will not stop selling other notoriously unhealthy products, such as potato chips or (in some states) alcohol. According to Merlo, these products do not pose as imminent of a threat as tobacco products.
Many employees of East Stroudsburg’s CVS have reported shock from their customers, but have approved of the plan.
“I can’t wait!” said Paul, a front-store employee, when asked about CVS’s plan.
While CVS Caremark is taking the leap to help its customers quit smoking, other retailers and pharmacies have not yet followed suit.
“It’s obviously a landmark decision and one that I hope wakes up the entire retail industry that it’s the right thing to do,” said Robin Koval, president and CEO of Legacy, a company that researches tobacco use.
Health organizations are not the only ones praising the company’s decision.
President Barack Obama released a statement earlier in the month, saying, “As one of the largest retailers and pharmacies in America, CVS Caremark sets a powerful example, and [this] 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.”
Cory Wickward, an ESU student majoring in biology, said, “I’m really proud of CVS. Even though they might be doing it for other reasons, I think they are making a good move. I think they should sell electronic cigarettes though. At least they don’t kill you.”
However, not all students view CVS Caremark’s decision as a way for it to focus on its customers’ health.
Chris Powers, an ESU student majoring in marine science and biology, said, “As a nonsmoker, I think they are simply missing out on a business opportunity because people will go elsewhere.”
ESU students who purchase their cigarettes and other tobacco products from East Stroudsburg’s CVS have been warned, and while the store will continue to sell cigarettes throughout the remainder of the semester, next semester is a different story.
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