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CVS right to halt cigarette sales, most say

Rochester Business Journal
March 28, 2014

A resounding 95 percent of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll support CVS Caremark’s recent decision to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Last month, CVS announced that it planned to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products by October. The nation’s largest drugstore chain ranked by sales, the company has more than 7,600 CVS/pharmacy 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 Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Caremark.

The move, which CVS Caremark estimates will cost $2 billion in revenues on an annual basis, comes amid a push to eliminate the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products in retail stores with pharmacies. In October 2008, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to adopt a tobacco-free pharmacy law, and the American Medical Association has approved a resolution calling for passage of “legislation at the local, state and federal levels to accomplish the goal of banning tobacco sales in pharmacies nationwide.”

The majority of readers—55 percent—favor outlawing the sale of tobacco products in retail stores with pharmacies.

In January 2008, Wegmans Food Market Inc. decided to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products. Explaining the decision, CEO Danny Wegman said, “As a company, we respect a person’s right to smoke, but we also understand the destructive role smoking plays in health.”

Nearly 800 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted March 24 and 25.

Do you support CVS Caremark’s decision to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products?
Yes: 95%
No: 5%

Do you favor or oppose outlawing the sale of tobacco products in retail stores with pharmacies?
Favor: 55% 
Oppose: 45%

Very simply, pharmacies carry products that are meant to promote, enhance and improve health and should not sell products that destroy health and cause disease and sickness.
—David Belcher, LeRoy

(Sales) of cigarettes should be taxed even more heavily than they are, and all support for tobacco farmers should be eliminated. That entire supply chain should be actively dismantled. Cigarettes cause more preventable damage to the society than just about anything else that I know of. Anyone who spent time by the deathbed of a dear person suffering from lung cancer and emphysema would surely agree.
—George Traikos

I favor banning the sale of tobacco products altogether. Few other generally available things have as compelling a death rate as cigarettes. Remember, more than half the cost of providing health care to all the dying smokers is paid for by us, the public (by way of Medicare, Medicaid and subsidies for the Affordable Care Act).
—Duane Kennedy, Penfield

I feel this is a wise decision, just like I felt when Wegmans did it, as they sell products to either eat healthy or feel better. Will certainly be a hit to revenue, but they will now have space for other products and will get some goodwill sales.
—Keith Newcomer

Each retailer needs to decide what the best fit is for their brand and position in the marketplace. Wegmans and CVS made decisions that align with their brand and will undoubtedly generate them goodwill for taking a lead in this area. I don’t think that legislation of what retailers can or can’t sell even if they have a pharmacy department is warranted.
—Matthew McDermott,
Vittorio Menswear & Tuxedo

I am not a smoker. That said, we have enough laws taking away our freedoms. Let’s start repealing some. To the point, let the markets and their customers decide if CVS should pay the price.
—Angelo Mancuso

Pharmacies should sell healthy products. Cigarettes and other tobacco products are not healthy products. With CVS pulling out of the cigarette market, it will provide an opportunity for small mom-and-pop stores to pick up some of that $2 billion CVS will leave on the table. I wish some of my patients wouldn’t go to the reservation where they get those cigarettes that have all the cancer value of cigarettes yet have the repulsive smell of cigars.
—Clifford Jacobson M.D., Vanguard Psychiatric Services P.C.

Makes so much sense to offer the public a real health benefit when one visits the pharmacy for products—and there’s no health benefit to smoking.
—Jerry Bennett

The future will tell if this is a “good” or “bad” business decision for CVS. Bottom line, their call either way. Nice to know there are still decisions companies can make without being dictated to by the state or federal government—yet. Yes, cigarettes are bad, cigars are bad, chewing tobacco is bad; where does it stop? Next will be sugar, salt, soda as they add to health issues also. God gave everyone a brain; it is still your choice to use it.
—D. Topian, WREA

We need to stop making it as easy to buy cigarettes as it is to buy candy and gum!
—Natalie Summers

Thirty years ago I worked in hospital administration, and the CEO asked me what I thought of banning smoking on the “acute care floors.” Being a non-smoker, I shot back, “If I were recovering from surgery, I would not want to smell the smoke coming from the nurse’s station,” and said it seems like such a “no-brainer” to me. Many corporations are accused of being inconsistent with their message; I think CVS is doing the right thing both from a corporate as well as a community policy.
—Peter Bonenfant

I support CVS as do I support Mormon-owned businesses being closed on Sunday; it’s their choice. I am happy that CVS and Wegmans do not want to sell harmful products. I am against limiting the size of soft drinks or “outlawing” much of anything.
—Daniel Mossien, architect

It is really inconceivable to imagine both the approval of selling cigarettes and the manufacturing of them, in light of all we know about hazards to one’s health. If our lobbyist/politicians insist on growing and manufacturing tobacco products, do so and ship to our enemies around the world!
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield

I oppose smoking personally; tried it as a kid and absolutely hated it. Neither society nor the government, however, has any right to dictate what people do and choose to use. If a private industry firm chooses such a route, that is their prerogative. The firm should not be praised or condemned for its decision.
—Jim Weisbeck, Bloomfield
For more comments, go to  To participate in the weekly RBJ Snap Poll, sign up for the Daily Report at

3/28/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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