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Published February 05, 2014, 12:24 PM

CVS Caremark announces end to cigarette sales

Woonsocket, RI (ABC News) - CVS Caremark announced that it will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products by October 1, the first national pharmacy chain to do so, citing smoking's health risks.

By: SUSANNA KIM, ABC NEWS, ABC News

Woonsocket, RI (ABC News) - CVS Caremark announced that it will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products by October 1, the first national pharmacy chain to do so, citing smoking's health risks.

The company says it will forgo the more than $1.5 billion in annual revenue from tobacco products that it usually earns.

In a "Viewpoint" article in theJournal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Dr. Troyen Brennan, CVS Caremark's chief medical officer, says "the financial gain is outweighed by the paradox inherent in promoting health while contributing to tobacco-related deaths," a point of view shared by other medical associations. In 2010, the American Pharmacists Association urged pharmacies to stop selling tobacco products.

CVS Caremark CEO and President Larry Melo said ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products is a step in helping people achieve better health.

"Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose," he said.

Dr. Troyen Brennan, CVS Caremark's chief medical officer, points to a report from the Surgeon General last month that indicates tobacco use has led to direct medical costs that range from $132 billion to $176 billion annually.

"Making cigarettes available in pharmacies in essence 'renormalizes' the product by sending the subtle message that it cannot be all that unhealthy if it is available for purchase where medicines are sold," Brennan writes in the JAMA article, adding that pharmacies in other developed countries do not sell cigarettes.

"The argument that pharmacies also sell tobacco-cessation products only heightens the paradox," Brennan wrote.

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