On Feb. 5, CVS Caremark, the nation’s second-largest drugstore chain, announced that it will end sales on tobacco products in its stores by Oct. 1, 2014. Photo by iStockphoto

With its move to end sales of tobacco products in its 7,600 stores by Oct. 1, CVS Caremark sent shock waves through the nation. Nearly 500,000 Facebook users liked or shared CVS’ anti-smoking announcement, while the second-largest drugstore chain earned near-unanimous support from U.S. health leaders.

“This is a breakthrough moment for public health in our global quest to end the tobacco epidemic,” said APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD, in a press statement. “It shows that the private sector can make smart business decisions that create a healthier society, and also break the codependence it has with the tobacco industry to increase revenues at the cost of its customers’ health and well-being. With its announcement today, CVS Caremark has shown that it champions the health of all people and all communities.”

Here are sound bites from other notable health advocates:

  • U.S. President Barack Obama — “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 health care costs — ultimately saving lives and protecting untold numbers of families from pain and heartbreak for years to come.”
  • Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services — “We need an all-hands-on-deck effort to take tobacco products out of the hands of America’s young generation, and to help those who are addicted to quit. Today’s CVS Caremark announcement helps bring our country closer to achieving a tobacco-free generation. I hope others will follow their lead in this important new step to curtail tobacco use.”
  • CVS Caremark President and CEO Larry Merlo — “Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS/pharmacy is simply the right thing to do for the good of our customers and our company. The sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose – helping people on their path to better health. … Cigarettes and tobacco products have no place in a setting where health care is delivered.”
  • American Medical Association President Ardis Dee Hoven — “We commend CVS for putting public health ahead of their bottom line and recognizing the need for pharmacies to focus on supporting health and wellness instead of contributing to disease and death caused by tobacco use. We are hopeful that CVS’s decision to end the sale of tobacco products will spur other pharmacies to follow suit to help improve the nation’s health.”
  • NACCHO Executive Director Robert M. Pestronk — “Local health departments have a long history of working with a wide range of community partners to reduce the devastating effects of tobacco-related illness and death. This is an important first step in creating tobacco-free communities and a tobacco-free generation. We hope other businesses will follow the courageous lead that CVS has taken today.”