Monday, May 21, 2018
Business

CVS to stop selling tobacco products on Oct. 1

CVS/Caremark, the largest drugstore chain in the country, has kicked the habit. Effective Oct. 1, it will stop selling all tobacco products.

The decision announced Wednesday — a ground-breaking acknowledgement of how far tobacco has fallen out of favor — affects more than 7,600 stores nationwide, 716 in Florida.

It will cost CVS about $2 billion a year in revenue, a fraction of its overall sales of $123 billion in 2012. But the retailer is angling to generate goodwill and support from anti-smoking shoppers to help offset that.

"CVS quits for good," the company heralded on its website Wednesday, using a smoking cigarette with a red slash through it as emphasis.

The retailer said the sale of cigarettes was "inconsistent with its purpose'' in promoting good health. Analysts said the move was another sign of the company becoming more of a health care provider than a predominantly retail business.

Florida's state Surgeon General, Dr. John Armstrong, was among those quickly applauding CVS. "Removing cigarettes from their more than 700 locations in Florida is welcome news for the families and communities of our state," he said. "I urge other retailers to follow suit."

The Walgreen Co. drugstore chain, an archrival with CVS in Florida, said it was evaluating the decision.

Beyond health reasons driving CVS, dropping tobacco is also "an incredibly smart" marketing decision, said Christine Turner, a principal with Tampa advertising and marketing agency ChappellRoberts.

The short-term loss of billions of dollars in revenue will be offset by the long-term payoff as a pioneer, she said. "The strongest brands have had to make strategic decisions, sometimes hard ones, that have had (an initial) loss. But it's the smart big-picture thing.

"They want to be a leader for health care delivery. For that brand … they can't have a shelf full of cigarettes and tobacco products behind the checkout station."

Turner said CVS appears to be on the right side of a trend as more entities ban tobacco sales and the allure of cigarettes wanes. Smoking has gone down significantly — from 42 percent of adults in 1965 to 18 percent today.

The Woonsocket, R.I.-based drugstore chain was getting widespread support across the Twitterverse on Wednesday, a phenomenon that only occurred because CVS was a leader, Turner said.

"What's the long-term brand value of being aligned with those powerhouse health companies?" she asked. "To be the first at something (means) no one else will ever catch up."

Most shoppers outside a CVS store in downtown St. Petersburg on Wednesday said stopping cigarette sales seemed a sensible and effective way to promote health and increase awareness about the dangers of cigarettes.

"I think this is a good thing. Smoking is just bad,'' said Kevin Jacques, 21, of Miami, a student at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

Jessie Thomas, 28, of St. Petersburg is a nonsmoker, but felt people should have a right to smoke.

"They should be able to buy cigarettes wherever they go,'' he said.

Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, said the CVS decision was "an unprecedented step in the retail industry" and predicted it would have "considerable impact."

Sebelius said that each day, some 3,200 children under 18 will try a cigarette for the first time and 700 will go on to become daily smokers. That means, she said, that 5.6 million American children alive today will die prematurely due to diseases linked to smoking.

"Today's CVS/Caremark announcement helps bring our country closer to achieving a tobacco-free generation," she said. "I hope others will follow their lead in this important step to curtail tobacco use."

Sebelius' boss and former smoker President Barack Obama echoed her praise, calling it a "powerful example."

The country's top tobacco companies, at least publicly, took the news in stride.

"It is up to retailers to decide if they are going to sell tobacco products,'' said William Phelps, a spokesman at Altria Group Inc., which makes Marlboro cigarettes, among other brands, and boasts a roughly 50 percent share of the U.S. tobacco market.

CVS pharmacists deliver flu shots and other immunizations, and clinics in the stores also have been expanding the scope of care they deliver. They now help people manage chronic illnesses like high blood pressure and diabetes in addition to treating minor illnesses like sinus infections.

CVS/Caremark CEO Larry Merlo noted that conditions like those are made worse by smoking.

"Removing tobacco products from our stores is an important step in helping Americans to quit smoking and get healthy," he said.

The company declined to say what will take tobacco's prominent shelf place behind cash registers at the front of its stores. CVS will test some items and may expand smoking cessation products that are already sold near cigarettes.

Walgreens, which has 857 locations in Florida, previously dismissed the notion of a tobacco ban.

"When you consider that 20 percent of all Americans use tobacco products and expect to find those items in our stores, we'd be at a tremendous competitive disadvantage if we didn't offer them," Michael Polzin, a Walgreen Co. vice president, told the Chicago Tribune in May.

On Wednesday, the company was more noncommittal.

"We have been evaluating this product category for some time to balance the choices our customers expect from us, with their ongoing health needs," Walgreens spokeswoman Emily Hartwig said. "We will continue to evaluate the choice of products our customers want.''

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

Comments
FPL parent wants to expand its Florida footprint with new purchase

FPL parent wants to expand its Florida footprint with new purchase

TALLAHASSEE ó The parent company of Florida utility giant Florida Power & Light announced Monday that it will buy the largest electricity producer in Northwest Florida, Gulf Power, in a $6.4 billion deal.Juno Beach-based NextEra Energy Inc. said in a...
Updated: 3 hours ago
One of Ybor Cityís most historic blocks about to see construction of four-story boutique hotel

One of Ybor Cityís most historic blocks about to see construction of four-story boutique hotel

TAMPA ó Developers are poised to launch construction this week on one of Ybor Cityís biggest new projects in years ó a four-story, $50 million boutique hotel being created by a Chicago company that seeks out neighborhoods rich in color and character....
Updated: 5 hours ago
Shoppers begin Publix boycott as chain continues supporting Adam Putnam for governor

Shoppers begin Publix boycott as chain continues supporting Adam Putnam for governor

Publix has been Floridaís favorite grocery chain for decades ó but some shoppers are turning their backs on the store after learning it donated more than half a million dollars to gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam. A handful of state advocacy group...
Updated: 8 hours ago
GasBuddy predicts plunge in summer travel, blames gas prices

GasBuddy predicts plunge in summer travel, blames gas prices

At least one gas price tracker expects rising fuel prices to sharply curtail summer travel. "For all those that have said summer travel will be unaffected by high gas prices, we offer thousands of respondents who have strongly indicated thatís not tr...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Barack and Michelle Obama are becoming television and film producers for Netflix

Barack and Michelle Obama are becoming television and film producers for Netflix

Netflix announced a production deal Monday with Barack and Michelle Obama that will see the former first couple create a wide range of content for the streaming service.The deal, talks for which had first been reported in March, will encompass a wide...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Starbucks: You donít have to buy coffee to sit in our cafes or use our restrooms

Starbucks: You donít have to buy coffee to sit in our cafes or use our restrooms

Starbucks is now allowing people to use its restrooms and sit in its cafes and patios even if they do not buy anything.The coffee giant on Saturday announced its new policy, which says that customers, including those who did not make a purchase, can ...
Published: 05/21/18

Hernando Business Digest for May 25

Business digestBrieflyHOSPITAL UPGRADES SURGICAL SYSTEM: Oak Hill Hospital recently acquired the latest da Vinci Xi Surgical System, which has broader capabilities than prior generations of the system. The new system is designed with the goal of furt...
Published: 05/21/18
Camping without the hassle: New service rents you all the gear you need, plus the car

Camping without the hassle: New service rents you all the gear you need, plus the car

One day in April, I returned from a camping trip - a quick 24 out of the city - and ran a load of laundry. Whatís more telling is what I didnít do.I didnít hose down a muddy tent, I didnít soak a shoddily cleaned pot, and I categorically did not empt...
Published: 05/19/18
Romano: Save your money, sports betting wonít be in Florida anytime soon

Romano: Save your money, sports betting wonít be in Florida anytime soon

It is the middle of the day and the beginning of the off-season at Tampa Bay Downs. That means the action is limited to simulcast wagering, and that means the televisions outnumber the bettors.The parimutuel industry is long past its heyday in Americ...
Published: 05/19/18
Son of Crabby Billís founder leaves complex legacy of troubled projects and good deeds

Son of Crabby Billís founder leaves complex legacy of troubled projects and good deeds

SOUTH PASADENA ó Like his father, who founded the Crabby Billís seafood restaurant chain, John Loder Sr. had a larger-than-life personality. That was one reason he dived into the real estate business, becoming a well-known, if at times controversial ...
Published: 05/18/18
Updated: 05/21/18