Why do Pharmacies Sell Tobacco? Let’s Join Together and Tell Them to Stop

Many years ago, I asked the manager at a local chain pharmacy why they sold cigarettes.  His response? “Umm…I don’t know.”

I would venture to say that most managers don’t know the answer to that either.  Do you?  I certainly don’t.  I would love to say that it is because tobacco products are big moneymakers for pharmacies, but tobacco products account for less than 1% of these stores’ profits.

Pharmacies are charged with promoting the health of their patrons.  Tobacco certainly does not contribute to this mission.  They sell smoking cessation aids, like nicotine gums and patches, yet these products are frequently placed directly next to the products they are trying to replace.

A few cities in the US have already prohibited tobacco sales in pharmacies, but they are in the great minority.

We can finally do something about it.  Click on this link (or go to http://www.change.org/petitions/tell-pharmacies-to-stop-selling-tobacco-products) and sign my petition to tell pharmacies that you want them to stop selling tobacco products.  I have a goal of 10,000 signatures by Independence Day.  Please help me get there and tell companies like CVS and Rite Aid to make sure all of their stores stop selling tobacco.


About Ryan Madanick, MD

I am a gastroenterologist who specializes in diseases of the esophagus, with a strong interest in the diagnosis and treatment of patients who have difficult-to-manage esophageal problems such as refractory GERD. I can be followed on Twitter: @RyanMadanickMD (he/him)
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10 Responses to Why do Pharmacies Sell Tobacco? Let’s Join Together and Tell Them to Stop

  1. We are very excited to know of your efforts and hope that you’ll find what we are doing very supportive. Please listen to the:

    1. “CVS sells poison” music video sung by 13-year-old Sofia Roma at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjpqXQc4tKg It just reached 1,235 views.

    2. Operation CVS sells poison: Cool undercover video; hear what CVS pharmacy personnel say about smoking lethal, addictive cigarettes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25NtiSLCQeQ

    3. CVS Marlboro Minute Clinics: Would you trust a Doctor who sold cigarettes in his waiting room? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvU2F0E6o_4

    Please pass these videos along to friends, family and co-workers via Facebook and emails.

    We have demonstrated 48 times at 13 different CVSs since May 2010. You can find reports about these protests at http://www.toxic-tobaccolaw.org/13news.shtml. At the last protest Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin gave us a “thumbs-up”.

  2. Dr. Terence Gerace, Sr. says:

    The “CVS sells poison campaign” is going very well. We completed our 74th protest in front of a CVS store today in Washington, DC. One of our protesters at #64 flew in from San Francisco.

    Our hope is that CVS pharmacy will announce that it is ending the sale of cigarettes this coming Christmas (2011). By doing this CVS will no longer be collaborating with the toxic-tobacco industry to advertise (point of purchase with millions of impressions each day), promote, distribute and sell lethal, addictive cigarettes at its over 7,000 stores.

    It is expected that Walgreens and Rite Aid will also end the sale of cigarettes in response to CVS’s lead.

    • Victoria says:

      I started sminokg 20 years ago (roughly). I started thinking about e-cigs about six months ago. I have no desire to quit sminokg, but I was concerned about the health ramifications. E-cigs seem like a way for me to have a habit that I enjoy, but with fewer health concerns. And, this will sound silly, but my cats factored into my decision to switch. I worried about their little lungs. (I know I know not so concerned about my lungs, but OH NO don’t mess with the kitty!) I didn’t like the way they’d react when they’d get near me with a lit cigarette. They’d wince and dash away from it. They do not react negatively to the e-cig. One nuzzled the LED today seriously. I think they like the light. My starter kit arrived two weeks ago. (I’m new to vaping, but I’m here because I hope to help others.) My transition has been very smooth. I still think about analog cigarettes, but not strongly enough to go out and buy them. There is some element that’s missing with e-cigs. I can’t quite identify it. I’m not experiencing nicotine withdrawals, but I can tell there’s something I was getting before that I’m not getting now. It’s very minor and vague.I’m using Blu and I’m very happy with it. It was the correct choice for me, but it may or may not be the correct choice for someone else. My mother has ordered her starter kit and, if the situation allows, I’ll report on her progress with the transition from sminokg to vaping as appropriate. +15

    • Pharmer Ted says:

      Of course CVS sells poison, it’s a pharmacy! What’s the difference if they’re selling cigarettes or all of that poison filled meds that Big Pharm pushes? You’re a doctor, you should know how easy it is to sell poison-for-profit!

  3. Dr. Terence Gerace, Sr. says:

    Thank you for featuring the CVS sells poison project. Our next protest will be number 95. Despite the fact that CVS did not stop selling cigarettes before Christmas 2011 as we had expected it had every reason to, we are optimistic that as a licensed health care provider, CVS will recognize this stark contradiction to its mission, distributing and selling lethal, addictive products.

  4. Philip says:

    Why aren’t more signatures on the petition? I find that shocking. I’m sure people don’t know about the specific petition in question. If they did, guaranteed you will get beyond the required number of signatures for the petition necessary to stop the sale of tobacco products in all stores.

  5. Ty Swails says:

    you people are ridiculous. CVS is a business, not a doctor’s office. They are catering to ALL their customers. This includes customers who need albuterol, who are thirsty for a soda, who want halloween decorations, and yes, smokers. Pharmacies haven’t been, or never were, places for only the purchase of prescription drugs. Are you going to start a petition to for them to stop selling potato chips? Because those are just as irrelevant. They probably sell weight loss supplements at CVS too. Does that make them hypocrites as well? How do educated people support limiting the freedoms of a business in America? Not a government entity or a location that collects tax breaks or anything of the sort. CVS is entitled to sell whatever they see fit. Are you going to start a petition against capitalism next?

    • Actually, pharmacies have traditionally been exactly for that. Well, not just prescription drugs. All types of remedies. It is only recently that this has changed, when American pharmacies have become retail sales venues. You may wish to read about that at a site such as this: http://www.drugstoremuseum.com/sections/level_info2.php?level_id=49&level=1

      CVS is INDEED ENTITLED to sell whatever they see fit. I am not against capitalism per se. Just don’t call yourself a pharmacy.

      If you’d like to continue this discussion, I am happy to maintain a civil discourse. But kindly refrain from judgmental terms against those who post.

    • Philip Martorella says:

      I would love to see the cessation of sales of all tobacco products due to major health concerns. I would even go so far as to say that I wish that the sales would be completely stopped everywhere. Even at gasoline stations.

  6. Pingback: CVS to stop selling tobacco products | Gut Check

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