Tobacco product sales at CVS have officially gone up in smoke.
The giant drugstore chain announced on Wednesday that it had pulled all cigarettes, cigars and tobacco products off its shelves, nearly a month ahead of schedule. The company has also changed its corporate name to CVS Health in order to demonstrate “its broader health care commitment” to improve the lives of Americans.
CVS had made the initial announcement in February, becoming the first national pharmacy to make such a bold decision. After all, removing tobacco products from the 7,700 CVS/Pharmacy locations was estimated to cost the company almost $2 billion in sales.
Helena B. Foulkes, president of CVS/Pharmacy said in a statement that the “removal of cigarette and other tobacco products from our stores is an important step in helping Americans to quit smoking and get healthy.”
CVS has plans throughout the rest of 2014 to introduce a “robust” smoking cessation program and an enhanced selection of nicotine replacement products in select stores. The company is hoping to become more of a health care provider instead of just a retail chain.
So far, no other major companies with pharmacies, including Wal-Mart or Walgreens, have made similar decisions to ban the sale of tobacco at their stores.
The move has earned praise from anti-smoking groups, doctors and even the Obama administration. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement, "We hope others will follow CVS Health's lead in this important new step to curtail tobacco use." First lady Michelle Obama also tweeted her support for CVS on Wednesday afternoon:
Unsurprisingly, CVS shareholders, the tobacco industry, and other critics have skewered the move, many arguing the company still sells junk food and alcohol.