Imagine this: you walk into any old pharmacy and the wall behind the counter is nearly empty, no longer filled with a mural of cigarette boxes waiting to be sold to the next smoker that walks through the automatic doors.

Some think this could be the case after CVS Pharmacy announced its decision to end the sales of cigarettes this week, set to begin October 1, 2014. I believe that this could be the future of pharmacies across the nation in just a few years. It seems as if this decision is more about strategic growth, marketing and profit than it is about the concern for its customers’ health and I believe we need to reevaluate our concentrations on pharmacies in terms of decreasing smoking habits.

According to Business Insider’s reproter Lauren F. Friedman, CVS is currently setting out to expand their pharmacies to health care, also known as the MinuteClinic expansion. The rapidly expanding MinuteClinic is an in-store primary care center with nurse practitioners and physician assistants where you can get physicals, immunizations and lab work done.

AP Photo

AP Photo


On the CVS website, it states there are currently more than 800 clinics in 28 states and based on Stephanie Strom’s article for the New York Times, CVS hopes to add 700 more clinics by 2017. According to Business Insider, these clinics have partnerships with insurance companies as well as hospital systems from which they profit; therefore they must follow the appropriate principles of a health care provider, thus the reason for the ban on cigarettes.

CVS also supports the Affordable Care Act and even offers in-store experts at some events and online guides for customers regarding the act. This helps people sort out insurance and the more people who are insured, the more paying customers CVS receives. Not only will it make money at the clinic and through the insurers, but these client customers will most likely have a waiting period and during this time, they are going to be walking around the store shopping.

As said in the New York Times, it is predicted that CVS will lose a total of $2 billion annually from the lack of cigarette sales. This loss seems small when compared to their $23 billion revenue this past year. Primarily, it appears CVS believes they will make more money in the healthcare business than in the cigarette-selling business.

Not only will they make money from the clinics, but just their announcement of the cigarette ban has allowed CVS to get an unbelievable amount of free press—and good press, at that. There are countless articles regarding CVS’s decision, including this one, allowing the news to essentially go viral. CVS is gaining an unbelievably good reputation from all of the press and is becoming the pioneer of a cigarette-free pharmacy: all part of their strategic, well thought-out and intelligent plan that will most likely pay off in the coming years. Now that CVS has taken the lead, I fully believe these pharmaceutical clinics could very well become a trend in the U.S. As soon as other pharmacies start to see CVS making more of a profit through their clinic, they are bound to follow suit, making the empty shelves behind the front counter a reality.

I am in no way suggesting that CVS should continue to sell cigarettes or choose cigarette sales over the profit made from clinics, but rather I am stating there is some confusion regarding why exactly CVS made this decision. If we truly wanted to decrease the smoking habits and better the health of our citizens, we would focus on banning cigarette sales at gas stations, where, according to Shirley Leung of The Boston Globe, more than 60 percent of cigarette sales occur compared to the 3.6 percent at drug stores.

We need to reevaluate what we truly want to accomplish in regards to decreasing smoking in our country.


Taylor Howe can be contacted at

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