Who Else Could Ban Tobacco Sales?

In reactions to CVS announcement, most urge others to act, too

Published in CSP Daily News

By  Steve Holtz, Online News Director & Beverage Editor

OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill. -- Reaction to CVS’ news that the drug store chain will stop selling tobacco products came in many forms, perhaps most pertinent among them, a column in the Boston Globe that encourages convenience stores to follow CVS’ lead—and subsequently explains why that’s highly unlikely.

Here, CSP Daily News distills the chatter and offers up the highlights.

Gas Stations: Kick the Habit

“CVS, the nation’s second-largest drugstore chain, got a lot of props this week for declaring it would stop selling death sticks. But if this country really wants to reduce smoking, we need to get gas stations and convenience stores to stop carrying packs of smokes, too,” wrote Globe columnist Shirley Leung.

Noting that more than 60% of cigarette sales are made at convenience stores compared with only 3.6% at drugstores, Leung argues that CVS’ action won’t have much effect on smoking statistics.

But to illustrate why it’s unlikely c-stores will join CVS’ crusade, the columnist reached out to Leo Vercollone, owner and president of VERC Enterprises, which operates a chain of 26 Verc c-stores in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

“If [my] sales of this product declined to the level at CVS, I would seriously consider whether I would sell it,” Vercollone said.

But for Vercollone, tobacco sales represent nearly 40% of his business. “Not something he likes, given that they are the lowest profit margin item in the store,” Leung wrote. “He can make twice as much on a cold bottle of Coke. But the customer who dashes in for cigarettes is often buying high-profit items like bottled water or coffee.”

Click here to read Leung’s complete column.

Other Drug Chains: Your Turn

After CVS announced that it will stop selling tobacco products on Oct. 1, several petitions have popped up on Change.org urging Walgreens and its Duane Reade pharmacies to also phase out tobacco sales, according to a spokesperson for the website.

The most popular Change.org petition, collecting more than 500 signatures since it was launched on Wednesday, was started by NYC resident Michael Brochstein, and calls into question Walgreens’ use of the slogan "at the corner of happy & healthy," while selling products that cause cancer.

"I've signed a couple of petitions on Change.org before so when I read the story about CVS, I thought that a petition would be a great way to show Duane Reade and Walgreens, pharmacies which claim to do things to make us healthier, that their customers don't think it is appropriate or consistent with their claims for them to be selling products that cause cancer," Brochstein wrote.

Customers and former employees are also leaving comments of support on Michael’s petition:

Said Dale T. of Mesa, Ariz.: “As a former five-year employee of a Walgreens in Apache Junction, I can attest to the negative effect that I witnessed at my store, as well as other stores, of what the addiction to tobacco can do. ... Walgreens claims that they are at the corner of happy and healthy. I think that starts by joining CVS in ceasing tobacco sales for the continued health of all of your customers and associates.”

Perhaps coincidently, Walgreens recently partnered with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Consumer Healthcare to create Sponsorship to Quit, a free health and wellness program designed to help people quit smoking.

Click here to see Brochstein’s petition.

And click here to learn more about Sponsorship to Quit.

The E-Cigarette Alternative

Finally, after CSP Daily News raised the question of whether CVS’ ban will include electronic cigarettes—currently undecided—representatives from the Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA) issued this statement:

“The decision by CVS to discontinue the sale of tobacco products in its stores is no doubt right for the strategic direction of that company and the consumers it serves. SFATA remains optimistic that CVS will in the future determine that offering electronic vaping products to adult consumers who seek an alternative to tobacco is a decision consistent with CVS' stated principals and business objectives.”

By Steve Holtz, Online News Director & Beverage Editor
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