Iowans who use tobacco products have fewer places to buy them, as of today. CVS, the nation’s second-largest pharmacy chain, has stopped selling all cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and related products. When the announcement was made in February, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin praised the decision. Harkin, who chairs the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, says the number-one drug store Walgreens should follow suit.
“I’m calling on all drug stores to not sell tobacco,” Harkin says. “I don’t care where they are or where they’re located, certainly Walgreens would be one.” CVS has 18 stores in Iowa, while Walgreens has nearly 70. CVS has said it will likely lose $2 billion in annual revenue with the cut-off of tobacco sales.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller also praised the decision by CVS and joins in the call for other companies to follow suit. Miller says for a drug store to sell cigarettes sends a mixed message. “A company that’s in the business of making people healthy should not be in the business of selling cigarettes to make them very unhealthy and die,” Miller says. “The difference, the contrast, is just too strong.”
Miller admits the move won’t stop people from smoking and says it’s more about the message. He says tobacco is to blame for the deaths of 5,000 Iowans each year, and 400,000 deaths nationwide.
CVS and other pharmacies sell alcohol, but Miller is -not- calling for the liquor to come off the shelves. “I wouldn’t say that they should stop selling alcohol,” Miller says. “Alcohol is a terrible issue for people that are addicted to alcohol. That’s a serious set of problems.” He says there is a difference between the problems caused by alcohol and cigarettes. “Most people can drink alcohol and not be affected adversely, whereas with cigarettes, it’s bad for everybody. It’s just sort of Russian Roulette, which people die,” Miller says.
He believes the move by CVS will put pressure on competitors to follow along when it comes to ending the sale of cigarettes in their stores.