- Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 February 2014 15:02
- Published on Wednesday, 19 February 2014 15:02
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Neither I, nor this paper, endorse any particularly store or retailer over another and this is especially true when it comes to drugstores. Half the time, when the clerk asks me if I have this or that store card, or if I participate in the rewards program, I have to ask to be reminded which store I’m in. Don’t let the marketing folks know but, one drugstore checkout looks a lot like another and while there are of course differences, for the most part they all sell the same things.
However, recently one of these chain stores did something that made them stand out and it’s worth noting. CVS, a large national drugstore chain, with a substantial presence in our area, said they are going to stop selling tobacco products.
When I was little, our local Drug Fair had a lunch stand, they had great milkshakes, a special section to test and replace the vacuum tubes in your TV, a prescription drug counter, and a tobacco counter. The latter was, and still is, a major revenue generator for drugstores. Grocery stores and convenience stores count on them for an important part of their profit margin. However, CVS in evaluating its long term corporate strategy didn’t think that selling tobacco fit into their plans. They see themselves, in the long term, as a health provider, selling prescription and non-prescription drugs, and now, at over 750 locations, offering the “Minute Clinic.” Somehow, the idea of treating someone with a smoking related disease, of which there are many, and then on the way out selling them a pack of cigarettes just didn’t make sense.
The company plans to stop selling tobacco products by October and while some have made light of this decision, the fact is it will impact the stores revenue picture. In the long term, in redefining the company, the lost revenue may not matter that much, but in the short it will run about $2 billion a year. The company can absorb it, it’s a big firm, but still, dropping tobacco sales is a change of course, and 50 years after the Surgeon General’s report on Tobacco use represents perhaps one of the final acts in America’s efforts to kick the habit.
Cigarette smoking, cigars, pipes and chewing tobacco, still have a strong following. Just hang around the sales counter at a gas station for awhile and you’ll see what I mean. And each year nearly a half a million people die preventable deaths caused by smoking. But, the days of everyone, or so it seemed, in an office puffing away, smoking sections on airplanes, restaurants covered in a pall of smoke, and even High Schools with smoking areas (yes, we had them at my high school) have gone. It’s simply not done anymore, and smoking, isn’t, for many young people at least, at all popular. It’s just too unhealthy and not that attractive.
I’d like to say smoking is at an end. But, it’s not. Though the numbers are down, plenty of people still light up. I wish this wasn’t the case, didn’t, but at least, in yet another change in the support system for this unfortunate habit, one store said no to selling tobacco. Good for them.
—Reach David Kerr at