Tobacco Executives Perplexed That Drug Chain Won’t Sell Their Drug
Woonsocket, Rhode Island, February 6 – The heads of America’s largest tobacco companies are scratching their heads at a decision by CVS, the nation’s largest pharmacy chain, to stop selling cigarettes, wondering why the drug they sell is somehow different from all the others.
CVS announced yesterday that as of October 1 it would cease to stock cigarettes, which represent $1.5 billion annually in revenue. The company announced the move as part of a strategic shift toward a healthier image. Executives from RJ Reynolds, Altria, and British American Tobacco, three of the world’s largest cigarette sellers, professed confusion over the move, noting that the active ingredient in product they manufacture is nicotine, a bona fide drug.
“We are as yet unsure how to formally react,” said a Vice President at Altria who spoke on condition of anonymity. “I mean, tobacco is basically nicotine in smoking form, and nicotine is a drug. CVS is a drug store. They sell drugs. What am I missing here?”
CVS’s 7,600 retail outlets represent the US’s largest pharmacy network. Recent years have seen the chain offer an increasing variety of low-cost healthcare services, attracting consumers and insurance providers alike with costs noticeably lower than those at hospitals and health clinics. In keeping with its emerging image as health-oriented, CVS elected to forgo the tobacco revenue in favor of a more wellness-friendly image that it calculates will more than make up for the loss in sales. However, the pharmacies will still sell such dangerous items as razor blades and abuse-prone substances, which the tobacco executives see as puzzling.
“They sell cosmetics, some of which can be positively lethal if ingested, so clearly this isn’t a health-based decision,” said a British-American Tobacco VP. “And they traffic heavily in greasy, salty, fatty, and sugary snack foods, which means that any claim that the move is specifically motivated by long-term health concerns doesn’t seem to hold up,” he added.
“It might be some warped considerations of painting tobacco companies as peddlers of evil, but really, why would anybody think that?” wondered the executive.