So, to say that we were surprised at CVS' announcement to drop all tobacco products from its retail stores would be a big fat understatement. One of the biggest retail chains in the country with 7,600 stores, CVS stands to lose up to $2 billion a year in revenue.
What could possibly be more important than $2 billion a year? In recent years, CVS has become the biggest retail-based healthcare provider in the country — a reflection of a growing trend in the way Americans receive care. The company has led the way in this movement, making up about half of the 1600 clinics that have sprung up in pharmacies across the country. As Obamacare shifts the healthcare burden away from ERs and primary-care physicians, analysts project these sorts of clinics will increase between 20% and 30% annually over the next few years.
Obviously, this new trend presents a conundrum for companies like CVS. How will they embrace their new role in keeping Americans healthy while providing them with a product that happens to be the biggest cause of preventable death. As CVS Caremark Corporation CEO Larry Merlo told The New York Times, "We have about 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners helping patients manage chronic problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease, all of which are linked to smoking. We came to the decision that cigarettes and providing healthcare just don’t go together in the same setting.” Makes sense, no? (The Atlantic)