UPDATE: CVS first large pharmacy to pull tobacco products - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: CVS first large pharmacy to pull tobacco products

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MADISON (WKOW) -- CVS Pharmacy announced Wednesday it will stop selling cigarettes and tobacco at its stores.

CVS executives say they want to support the health of customers, even if it means a loss in revenue. The move is expected to cost the company about $2 billion a year in sales. All products are expected to be pulled from the shelves at more than 7,600 CVS stores by October 1.

CVS says with so many customers seeking medical advice and picking up prescriptions, selling cigarettes and other tobacco products seemed inconsistent with their purpose.

"We thought long and hard about $2 billion in revenue, at the end of the day there's a much bigger role we can play in the health care system," CVS president Helena Foulkes. tells ABC News.

CVS has been adding clinics and expanding healthcare for several years, but a greater focus on health isn't a new concept at some local pharmacies like southern Wisconsin's Hometown Pharmacy chain.

Hometown pharmacist Thad Schumacher says the company has never stocked cigarettes or alcohol and focuses on healthy products.

"We believe that the healthcare of of our patients is a priority and we need to offer services that are good for a patients healthcare," Schumacher tells 27 News. "It's nice to see [CVS] make that decision and we hope other retailers like them do the same."

Most of those we caught up with outside a Madison CVS store agree.

"The fewer people who start smoking the better off we all are and I'm glad when establishments take a stand in favor of health," says former smoker Jan Levine Thal.

"That's beneficial for people who maybe would like to quit or smoke less but don't necessarily have the willpower to do it themselves," says Libby Pier, from Madison.

CVS also plans to launch a national treatment program in spring to help people quit smoking.

WOONSOCKET, RI (WKOW) -- CVS Pharmacy announced early Wednesday morning it will become the first large pharmacy chain to pull tobacco products from its shelves.
The company will phase out tobacco in its 7,600 stores by October, 1. The move will cost CVS about $2 billion a year in revenue, but its president says selling cigarettes alongside medicine undermines its mission to promote good health.
CVS is trying to position itself as a health care company.
"As the delivery of healthcare evolves with an emphasis on better health outcomes, reducing chronic disease and controlling costs, CVS Caremark is playing an expanded role in providing care," Larry J. Merlo, the president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. "Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose."
The move comes after years of pressure from public health advocates and medical providers, who have urged retailers to make tobacco products and advertising less available, particularly to children and teenagers.

Walgreens, a main competitor, responded to the CVS decision saying it will continue to evaluate the choice of products its customers want, while also helping to educate them and providing smoking cessation products.

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