By Riley Manning
TUPELO – CVS will officially “just say no” to tobacco Oct. 1, phasing out cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco from 7,600 stores nationwide.
While local CVS management declined comment, most customers interviewed at the Crosstown CVS in Tupelo and Walgreen’s across the street applauded the decision.
“I think it’s perfect,” said Tupelo resident Lafaye Posey. “It may help people who have trouble quitting on their own, and it’s one less place for kids who don’t know what they’re getting into to buy them.
“I have [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease], so if anyone does know, it’s me.”
In an announcement Wednesday morning, the pharmacy chain said selling deadly tobacco products contradicts the store’s health-focused mission.
CEO Larry Merlo noted the irony of selling medicine for diseases exacerbated by cigarettes and the cigarettes themselves in the same store.
“We’ve come to the conclusion that cigarettes have no place in a setting where health care is being delivered,” he said.
In Northeast Mississippi, CVS has stores in Tupelo, Pontotoc, Booneville, Ripley, Oxford, Starkville and West Point.
At the Crosstown Walgreen’s across the street from CVS, patron Martha Bonds of Tupelo thought the move was “a great idea. Any way they can get rid of cigarettes, I’m all for it.”
The announcement said removing cigarettes from stores was just one way CVS plans to help people stop smoking. The company also will train pharmacists to counsel smokers trying to kick the habit.
A Tupelo CVS customer who didn’t want his named used said it was rare for a business to sacrifice profits to do the right thing.
“I think it’s admirable,” he said. “I read they would lose a large amount of money, but maybe it will put pressure on other stores to do the same thing.”
Of the some $123 billion the company brings in annually, tobacco accounts for around $1.5 billion.
However, customers often buy other products when picking up their smokes.
Other customers, like Tupelo resident and Walgreen’s customer Bob Sheffield, were skeptical about the move, and doubted it would change any public perception of the habit.
“I don’t think it’s a terrible idea, but they’re going to buy it from somewhere else anyway,” he said. “So why shouldn’t people be able to buy whatever they want, whenever and wherever they want it?”