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Major US Drug Store Chain Stops Selling Tobacco

FILE - In this July 17, 2013 file photo, Marlboro cigarettes are on display in a CVS store in Pittsburgh. CVS, the second largest drug store chain in the U.S., has stopped selling tobacco products.

The second biggest drug store chain in the United States has stopped selling tobacco products, giving up $2 billion in annual sales to reposition itself as a health-conscious retailer.

CVS Caremark, which has 7,700 drug stores throughout the country, said it would now call itself CVS Health and start a smoking-cessation campaign.

The chain announced earlier this year it would stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products by October 1, but says it has cleared its shelves of the items ahead of time.

Tobacco products at CVS stores were stocked behind the counter, and the retailer will now will post signs in the same place urging customers to quit their tobacco habit. Smoking is blamed for 480,000 deaths a year in the U.S. and is the country's leading cause of preventable deaths.

No other U.S. drug-store chain has joined CVS in dropping tobacco products. The biggest chain, Walgreens, notes that only about 4 percent of tobacco products in the U.S. are sold at pharmacies and that smokers who want tobacco products can buy them at many retail locations.

Despite years of government campaigns against smoking, surveys show that about 18 percent of Americans still smoke, a figure that is much lower than in many parts of the world, but higher than in some countries.

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