CVS announced Wednesday that it has yanked cigarettes and other tobacco products from shelves at 7,600 stores nationwide, beating its original goal for ending cigarette sales by almost a month.
The retailer also changed its corporate name from CVS Caremark to CVS Health, a name the company believes “reflects our broader health care commitment.”
CVS pledged tobacco products would be off its shelves by Oct. 1 when it announced its plan to stop selling cigarettes in February, but they’re gone three weeks early.
“Every day, all across the country, customers and patients place their trust in our 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners to serve their health care needs,” Helena B. Foulkes, President of CVS/pharmacy said in a statement posted on the company’s website. “The removal of cigarette and other tobacco products from our stores is an important step in helping Americans to quit smoking and get healthy.”
“We’re the first national pharmacy chain to step up and take this action,” CEO Larry Merlo said in a video accompanying the original statement announcing the halt in sales. “Tobacco products have no place in a setting where health care is delivered.”
Merlo also said the company plans to launch a “robust smoking cessation program” next year, to help the 7 in 10 smokers who say the way to quit achieve that goal.
The move comes as CVS is increasingly trying to rebrand itself as a health-care company, with in-pharmacy clinics and partnerships with hospitals. Now that cigarettes have disappeared, customers can expect to see new signage and an “enhanced selection” of nicotine replacement products.
First Lady Michelle Obama, who has made public health a key priority during her time in the White House, thanked CVS in a Twitter message.