Even Smokers Shrug At CVS Cig Move

Allan Appel PhotoJohn Nichols headed into CVS smoking a Marlboro Red—and said he has no problem going elsewhere to feed his habit.

Non-smokers and smokers like Nichols shopping at New Haven’s two CVS outlets offered at most a shrug upon learning Wednesday that the Rhode Island-based pharmacy giant plans to eliminate sales of all tobacco products from its 7,600 stores by Oct. 1. “We came to the decision that cigarettes and providing health care just don’t go together in the same setting,” CVS Caremark CEO Larry J. Merlo told The New York Times.
It turns out that even the smokers don’t look to CVS for cigarettes.

“CVS is not the place I go to buy cigarettes,” he said, although he admitted that the Marlboro Red he was smoking did come from the store, said Nichols (pictured), as he approached the CVS at Whalley Avenue and Dayton Street to buy soda and groceries. There are plenty of other places to buy smokes, he said.

“Maybe it’s a business ploy,” he said of CVS’s decision.

“I’m a smoker, but I don’t even think of coming here” for cigarettes,” Tanya Walker said after emerging from the CVS on Whalley at Orchard with a small box of tissues. She buys her smokes at corner stores or convenience stores.

She pronounced the upcoming ban on cigarettes “reasonable” and said it wouldn’t keep her from being a continuing customer. “If I need to come here, I can.”

Warren Davis, a non-smoker, was visiting Westville Wednesday from New York State. As he carried several bottles of CVS-purchased Coca Cola to his car, he said he agrees with CVS’s decision, since plenty of other places, including the other large chain pharmacies, continue to sell smokes. “I have good addiction,” he added, glancing down at the soda bottles in the red and white plastic CVS shopping bag.

The strongest opinion expressed in the Westville CVS parking lot belonged to a pest elimination technician, 63-year-old Art Taylor: “They tell you it’s dangerous, and still they sell it. I think they should get rid of all smokes [everywhere] forever.”

He uses CVS for the convenience of their ATM, he said. That service “costs me nothing.”

Computer systems engineer Geof Wong (pictured) and his friend Wen Li, a machine operator, purchased soda as well. Wong characterized the CVS decision as “doing the community a favor and more in line with their business model.”

His friend Li wasn’t so sure. While he puffed on a Marlboro Red, he admitted to being mildly irritated by the future inconvenience.

Wong pointed out that 14 to 17-year-olds “are smoking like hell,” and that therefore some people “are going to be furious.” Li, who has a teenaged son, didn’t disagree.

Li’s 81-year old-father has been smoking all his life.

“His father just got half his lung cut out,” Wong reported of Li’s dad, “and he’s still smoking weeks after the surgery.”

A doctor in China advised Li’s father that ceasing to smoke at age 81 wouldn’t make sense; the shock of withdrawal to a body so used to nicotine would be more dangerous than continuing to puff.

Li puffed and offered a what-can-you-do shrug.

Elaine Brown (who did not want to be photographed) was leaving the CVS at Orchard Street with tissues in her bag as well as a pad, medicines, and other supplies she uses to help take care of her mom.

Brown, a nonsmoker, called the business decision by CVS “a good idea.”

A friend accompanying her reminded her that “they have been trying to stop smoking for years. It still goes on. It’s like guns.”

Brown nodded, and the two women made their way to their car across the snow-packed parking lot.

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posted by: HewNaven on February 6, 2014  10:24am

What a joke! CVS and all the other big chain drug stores (e.g. Walgreens, Rite-Aid) are full of sugary junk that has ZERO nutritional value. Cigarettes are just the tip of the iceberg in these places. Why don’t they just go back to being drug stores?

posted by: TheMadcap on February 6, 2014  10:50am

Trying to compare cigarettes to junk food is a joke.

posted by: HewNaven on February 6, 2014  1:35pm


Laugh all you want. Why do you think most of the people interviewed were buying sugary drinks? They’re just as addictive, and they’re just as bad for you. The drug stores are setting a double standard for which products they deem healthy. Cigarettes are indeed unhealthy, and so are food-like products that are high in sugar and salt. Both are addictive. Both cause disease and eventually death. The hypocrisy of CVS is laughable. Comparing junk food to cigarettes is not. It’s more of an exercise in self-preservation.

posted by: TheMadcap on February 6, 2014  2:52pm

“They’re just as addictive, and they’re just as bad for you.”

You’ve never been a smoker have you? Because really this is just laughable.

posted by: disconnect on February 6, 2014  3:05pm

“...sugar and salt… both cause disease and eventually death.”

Tobacco has no known medical use of which I am aware. Salt and sugar are chemicals used every day in every living human being. Trying to claim that the two are equivalent is fallacious at best.

You seem to be arguing in favor of behaviors that result in increased health. Why then are you disregarding the huge step that this faceless corporation is taking? They’re losing a crapload of money on principle alone and furthering the idea that tobacco use is Not Cool. Remember back in the 70s when there was smoking everywhere, and you just had to live with it? And now there isn’t, and people with respiratory issues can breathe easier? This is a Good Thing, and our society can use more of it.

posted by: Walt on February 6, 2014  3:17pm

Good move say I , an ex-excessive smoker.

It won’t have any effect on me as I already avoid CVS because its prices tend to be significantly higher than other   outlets says my experience,  especially for prescriptions.