Wednesday, February 05, 2014

One less place to buy a smoke...

I wonder if this is the beginning of a trend.

News reports, like this one from MSN, are reporting that the drugstore chain CVS will stop selling tobacco products by October. This is kind of a big thing, considering that it is reported that CVS, which is the second-largest drugstore chain in the United States, will lose around $2 billion dollars in revenue by dropping these products. That's a lot of cash any way you look at it.

CVS isn't the first retailer to stop selling cigars, cigarettes, and chewing tobacco; Target stores do not sell them. However, Walgreen's, the nation's biggest drugstore chain, still sells them, as does Wal-Mart, which also contains pharmacies in its stores.

Spokesmen for CVS have said that the move to drop tobacco products from its offerings is part of a move to work with doctors and hospitals more closely to improve its customers' health. This is in line with the trend in recent years to install clinics right in drugstores that both CVS and Walgreen's have joined. These clinics do things like offer immunizations and help their customers manage chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.

I think this is an interesting move, but I wonder if there is going to be any push-back from the tobacco industry. It isn't as if that $2 billion dollars worth of cigarettes and other tobacco products is going to put much of a dent in the earnings of tobacco companies - according to the article linked above, about $107.7 billion dollars worth of tobacco products are sold in the United States every year. This, even though only about 18 percent of the nation's population are now smokers, down from close to half of all Americans who smoked or chewed in 1970. Still, the tobacco industry has been fairly aggressive in the past about asserting its rights and about denying that there is anything unhealthy about its products. So, it will be interesting to watch how this unfolds.

I have to say, I suppose, as a matter of full disclosure, that I am not a smoker and I never have been, and that I don't really understand the appeal of sucking hot smoke into one's lungs. It isn't something that makes any sense to me at all. Even though I grew up with a father who smoked, I was never even tempted to try it. And I was never tempted when, in junior high and high school, a lot of my friends smoked. Which, of course, means that I also don't understand the militant non-smokers who seem to believe that smoking should never be shown in entertainment because, OMG, if the kiddies see it, they're going to want to try it. This wasn't my experience at all.

So, I don't see the CVS move as any sort of problem. And, you know, it isn't as if the retailer has any sort of obligation to carry a product - tobacco or anything else - if it doesn't want to. It isn't as if anyone who smokes is going to be denied access to their cigarettes because CVS will stop selling them. And, it does seem sort of incongruous for a business that is based around health care to sell something that, when used correctly, is harmful to one's health and to the health of those around them.

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