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Medicine, Yes. Cigarettes, No.

A no smoking sign saying "CVS quits for good"This post was written by Perrie Briskin.

Last week, we joined health professionals in applauding CVS Caremark’s decision to stop selling tobacco products at all CVS/pharmacy locations by October 1, 2014.

It is a bold statement by the nation’s largest drugstore chain in overall sales. The decision is motivated by CVS’ plans to become more known as a destination for primary care services — and not just a place to drop off a prescription or pick up some shampoo.

As described by CVS Caremark’s President and CEO, “CVS Caremark is playing an expanded role in providing care through our pharmacists and nurse practitioners… Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”

In 2000, CVS launched MinuteClinic, its chain of in-store medical clinics. MinuteClinics, staffed by physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and nurses, treat common family illnesses and administer vaccines, among other primary care services. There are 800 MinuteClinics around the country today, with plans to grow to 1,500 clinics by 2017.

Our friends at the American Public Health Association (APHA) also celebrated CVS’ announcement. APHA asked its members to join in signing a petition that would encourage all retailers with pharmacies and clinics to cease the selling of tobacco products.

CVS competitor Walgreens is said to already be assessing its sale of tobacco products. Cities like San Francisco and Boston have already had similar bans in place for years.

CVS’ decision is not expected to make a huge dent in overall tobacco sales, 75% of which occur in convenience stores. However, we would argue, CVS’ decision is yet another milestone, not unlike the Affordable Care Act or start-up health insurance company Oscar, that signifies exciting changes to America’s health.

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