CVS Caremark took a bold step last week when it announced it will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at all its pharmacies by October. CVS is the first chain of its kind to make such a move, though they have already paid a price for their vision. Share prices fell nearly 2 percent in the wake of the announcement.
CVS must have calculated the risk before making its decision, and its executives are to be applauded for the effort to remove a threat to public health, despite the financial backlash. Folks in the Mid-Ohio Valley can use all the help they can get.
Despite nationwide information campaigns, taxation efforts and public restrictions, Ohio continues to be one of the worst states in terms of adults who smoke. Worse, 2012 data for Washington County show the rate of new cases of lung cancer is at 76.9 percent, higher even than the 75.4 percent rate for the entire state. According to Washington County Health Department Administrator Court Witschey, Ohio ranks last among states for funding for tobacco cessation programs.
"It's more of a culture thing, of behaviors being passed down to children, with eating, physical habits and tobacco habits," Witschey told a reporter.
But one of the ways in which that habit is being fed is an avoidance of Ohio's $1.25 per pack cigarette tax by crossing the river for West Virginia's 55 cent tax. With CVS deciding to go truly tobacco-free, there will be many fewer locations both in Ohio and West Virginia at which tobacco users can conveniently purchase their poisons.
Stephanie Davis, program director for the tobacco prevention program at Selby General Hospital, noted the odds are stacked against many who may be fighting a nicotine addiction because products are on display "everywhere."
While supply and demand are, indeed, the most powerful forces in economics, the wellbeing of customers should be as much an influence on corporate decisions as possible. More companies should follow CVS's lead.