Should CVS Caremark be praised or confronted?

CVS is my pharmacy of choice. I am in their store a couple of times per month. I have always been aware they sell tobacco products. Yet I hardly notice them since I have no interest.

Recently they announced that by October 2014 they would no longer sell tobacco products in their 7600 pharmacy stores. That works for me. They further announced that they will launch this spring a smoking cessation campaign. Sounds good to me.

They claim it is because of their commitment to health care and they are positioning themselves as a part of the health care provider team. If you want to see their public announcement and a couple of short videos, go to

Reports are that selling tobacco products is a $2 billion income stream for CVS. Yet they believe they will more than make it up through new partnerships they are negotiating with hospitals to be part of an integrative health care provider system. In fact, hospitals are challenging them on their sale of tobacco products and it might be suggested that their failure to cease selling tobacco products could be a deal breaker.

Later reports from other news sources have indicated that several cities–Boston and San Francisco to name two–are starting to ban the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies. Perhaps CVS is just getting ahead of the inevitable. The American Medical Association and the American Cancer Society have been lobbying pharmacies on this for years.

Is the move by CVS a altruistic move or a business and public relationships move. The answer is “yes”. At the same time it ought to be praised for what it is–a step in the right direction regardless of motive or pressure from potential partners and various advocacy groups. They have contributed in a small way to reverse the trend of 500,000 deaths in the USA each years from tobacco-related causes.

Granted, it might be appropriate to ask why they just stopped at tobacco as a health risk line of products. Why not candy, junk food, processed food, and alcohol? Good question. But not the question for today. Today let’s praise CVS. Let’s wait at least until tomorrow to confront them.

As I think about having less places where people are standing in line to buy tobacco products, I am glad I can pay for my fuel purchase at the pump at gas stations and convenience stores and I do not have to go in to standing in the forthcoming longer lines as people are buying tobacco products. I suspect these stores will be among the last hold outs on selling tobacco products.

George Bullard

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About the Author
George is President of The Columbia Partnership at, This is a Christian ministry organization that seeks to transform the North American Church for vital and vibrant ministry. It primarily does this through the FaithSoaring Churches Learning Community. See George is the author of three books: Pursuing the Full Kingdom Potential of Your Congregation, Every Congregation Needs a Little Conflict, and FaithSoaring Churches. George is also General Secretary [executive coordinator] of the North American Baptist Fellowship at This is one of the six regions of the Baptist World Alliance. George holds is Senior Editor of TCP Books at More than 30 books have been published on congregational leadership issues.

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