Thursday, February 6, 2014
So is CVS gonna have a "Going out of (the cigarette) Business" sale?
As I'm sure you've heard, the CVS Pharmacy chain will soon no longer sell cigarettes or other tobacco products at any of it's 7,600 stores. They say selling stuff harmful to your health is inconsistent with their main purpose of selling things that will improve your health.
It will cost them about $2B in annual sales, and IMO was a gutsy call by their CEO. I like it. I'm not a smoker, and I'll go out of my way to avoid smokers fouling my air. It's a nasty habit as everyone, especially those addicted to it, knows.
But there's the rub. After thinking about it, I'm not so sure it really was the best thing to do. To my knowledge there are no "social smokers", those who only smoke on social occasions, like there are social drinkers. Smokers are addicted. They are going to get their smokes, regardless of how far they have to travel to get them.
I suggest it might have been a more effective statement to continue to sell cigs to the already addicted, and then use all the profits generated by those sales to subsidize the cost of those proven anti-smoking products they sell that actually help people quit for good. (I'm not sure what the profit margin is on the tobacco products they sell, but it has to be up in the hundreds of millions of dollars.)
Those patch-type products (as one example) are expensive, and cutting the price substantially might entice more smokers to give them a try. Or maybe they could use the profits to subsidize the cost of care at their in-store health clinics they're trying to expand. Many people can't afford to visit a doctor, and this could be a viable alternative for the uninsured poor. (Don't hold your breath ObamaCare is going to enroll everyone.)
CVS's move was a grand statement that on principle I applaud, but as a pragmatist, I think maybe they could have done something more practical to directly help people.
And you say....?