A major U.S. drug store chain announced it will stop selling all cigarettes and tobacco products by October 1, an action that was immediately applauded by President Barack Obama.
The CVS Caremark chain, with more than 7,100 stores, said Wednesday that cigarettes and tobacco products have no place in its outlets as it seeks to focus more on its role as a health-care provider. The chain, with $56 billion in annual sales, said ending tobacco sales will cost it $2 billion in annual revenue.
Obama, a former smoker, said the drug store company's tobacco ban "sets a powerful example" and helps advance his administration's efforts to reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer and heart disease.
He said the company's action will have a "profoundly positive impact on the health of our country."
Studies show that nearly 44 million U.S. adults, about one-fifth of the adult population, smoke regularly. That figure is lower than in many other countries, but has remained mostly unchanged despite years of government campaigns against smoking.
U.S. officials say cigarette smoking accounts for more than 440,000 deaths annually in the country.