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Big US Drugstore Chain to End Tobacco Sales

A major U.S. drug store chain says that by October it will stop selling all cigarettes and tobacco products, an action immediately applauded by President Barack Obama, a former smoker.

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 become more of a health-care provider. The chain, with $56 billion in annual sales, said ending the tobacco sales will cost it $2 billion in yearly revenue.

Mr. Obama 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 have shown that nearly 44 million U.S. adults smoke regularly, about a fifth of the adult population. The smoking rate in the U.S. is lower than in many other countries but mostly unchanged in recent years, even after extensive government campaigns against smoking.

U.S. officials say that cigarette smoking accounts for more than 440,000 deaths annually in the country.