WOONSOCKET, R.I., Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Pharmacy chain CVS announced Wednesday it will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at its more than 7,600 U.S. locations by Oct. 1.
"Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS/pharmacy is the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health," Larry J. Merlo, president and chief executive officer of parent company CVS Caremark, said in a release. "Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose."
CVS, based in Woonsocket, R.I., said it is the first national pharmacy chain to eliminate the sale of tobacco products.
As the delivery of healthcare evolves with an emphasis on better outcomes, reducing chronic disease and controlling costs, CVS expects to grow its role in providing care through its pharmacists and nurse practitioners, Merlo said.
"The significant action we're taking today by removing tobacco products from our retail shelves further distinguishes us in how we are serving our patients, clients and healthcare providers and better positions us for continued growth in the evolving healthcare marketplace."
CVS' decision to end tobacco products sales is consistent with positions of the American Medical Association, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and American Pharmacists Association, which have publicly opposed tobacco sales in retail outlets with pharmacies.
"As a leader of the healthcare community focused on improving health outcomes, we are pledging to help millions of Americans quit smoking," Merlo said. "In addition to removing cigarettes and tobacco products for sale, we will undertake a robust national smoking cessation program."
President Obama applauded the decision.
"As one of the largest retailers and pharmacies in America, CVS Caremark sets a powerful example, and today's decision will help advance my administration's efforts to reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer and heart disease, as well as bring down healthcare costs -- ultimately saving lives and protecting untold numbers of families from pain and heartbreak for years to come," Obama said in a statement issued by the White House.