The decision to stop selling cigarettes is a strategic move as pharmacies across the country jockey for a piece of the growing health care industry. Rebranding itself as a company focused on health could prove lucrative for the drugstore as it seeks to appeal to medical partners that can help it bridge the gap between customers and their doctors.
CVS already operates 900 walk-in medical clinics, or “minute clinics,” where customers can get relatively simple services like blood pressure tests and flu vaccines. By dedicating space for these services, CVS and other major retailers like Walmart are diving into the pool of competitive health care dollars available for helping manage customers’ illnesses.
As the medical industry braces for the flood of new patients with insurance through the Affordable Care Act, drugstores see an opportunity to provide basic care to consumers who may not want to wait to see a doctor, if one is available in their area at all. And major chains like Walmart, the country’s largest retailer, can offer such services for prices that may appeal to patients on the fringes of the health care system.
CMDA Member and Internal Medicine and Geriatrics Specialist Delores Kotschwar, MD: “CVS’ decision to implement a cigarette-free enterprise at first seems to be a healthful and welcomed venture which I can applaud. But at a second glance, it raises some serious questions about the company’s intentions and our society as a whole.
“If this is a marketing ploy, is CVS trying to capture a health-minded customer base? And if so, are they also going to stop their sales of alcohol, carbonated beverages and nutrient-deficient and calorie-dense snacks? Will they also censor their magazine racks for those who struggle with alcoholism or pornography addictions?
“If this is a moral move, will CVS be willing to risk less vilified behaviors? It is easy to jump on the band wagon to denounce smoking as its health risks have been in the news for years. Yet nicotine, for all that it harms, is also a wonderful antidepressant, increases dopamine, decreases hunger and makes one feel empowered. However, because smoking is associated with heart, lung, cancer, hearing and memory issues, it is appropriately to be avoided. It is simplistic to criticize cigarettes alone. Our culture has the odd schizophrenia to vilify nicotine cigarettes which stimulate and enhance performance, while at the same time legalizing marijuana which causes time and space alteration, appetite stimulation, boundary violation, grandiosity and sleepiness.
“Other retailers have refused to sell alcohol or use certain products. But we have not yet addressed these other addictions. This probably wouldn’t be a financial boon and taking on these issues would likely result in business ruin. To be present at a stockholder’s meeting for CVS might be enlightening.
“We are a highly addicted society, palliating our pain and our altered limbic systems with many substances, including nicotine, alcohol, food, exercise, work, sex and pornography—all the while ignoring our desperate need for a God who heals.”
CMDA General Healthcare Resources