CVS Move to Ditch Tobacco Shifts Focus to E-Cigs

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Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images

A woman smoking an e-cigarette

CVS announced Wednesday that the pharmacy will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in its 7,600 stores by October, a decision that could cost the drug retailer as much as $2 billion in annual sales. The move was cheered by public health advocates and federal officials, including President Barack Obama, a former smoker, who called CVS’s decision a “powerful example.”

But CVS left out another matter entirely: electronic cigarettes. CVS doesn’t currently sell e-cigs—battery powered devices that emit a nicotine vapor instead of smoke—and it stopped notably short of saying whether it would do so in the future, leaving manufacturers in limbo.

CVS’s choice to stay in an e-cig holding pattern until the FDA comes out with new guidance, a process the agency has delayed for months, reflects the current confusion about how to classify electronic cigarettes, which are not medicines like nicotine patches or gum, but aren’t exactly cigarettes either. They don’t fit neatly into either category.

Manufacturers, many of whom believe that their product can help reduce smoking, cheered the CVS move and expressed optimism that pharmacy and others will eventually see their role in reducing smoking. “NJOY applauds CVS Caremark for its courageous decision to go tobacco free” NJOY, a leading independent e-cigarette maker based in Scottsdale, Ariz., said in a statement. “Nearly half a million Americans die every year due to smoking and we believe electronic cigarettes can help end this epidemic.”

Andries Verleur, the CEO of VMR Products, a manufacturer and major online retailer of electronic cigarettes, also applauded CVS. “We believe in the mission to create a tobacco-free generation,” he said. “With this in mind, we are also pleased that CVS will continue to emphasize the importance of alternatives to tobacco and hope that they will ultimately recognize the impact of electronic cigarettes, which do not contain tobacco, in this category.”

Stanton Glantz, a professor of tobacco control at University of California San Francisco and a vocal foe of cigarettes and e-cigarettes alike, criticized these kinds of public health statements from electronic cigarette companies, none of which have been given FDA permission to market e-cigarettes as cessation aids. “It is also significant that CVS does not sell e-cigarettes and will not sell them until the FDA provides some ‘guidance,'” Glantz wrote on his blog. “This is another responsible act, since not a single e-cigarette company has submitted an application to market c-cigarettes as either smoking cessation aids or reduced risk products, despite aggressively promoting these claims.”

For now, CVS has elected to wait and see, spokesman Michael DeAngelis wrote in an email: “We wouldn’t speculate on how the FDA will decide about this product. We will evaluate once their decision is made.”  

9 comments
AlanBrody
AlanBrody

As the author of "Cigarette Seduction" - a study of tobacco industry research on smokers - I have to agree there is a lot more to this than meets the eye. 


Smoking is an extremely deep issue that has been psychoanalyzed by the industry since A.A Brill introduced us to Freud in the 1920's. It doesn't just go away - it is replaced. In fact, smoking itself replaced even earlier and more disagreeable practices like spit tobacco (WW1 and the posst-war TB epidemic took care of that) and in Asia it replaced betel nuts and even recreational opium. 


It is more than reasonable to assume CVS' bold move is driven by numbers - and those numbers are plain to see: Smoking has declined from about 40% of the population over the past 40 years to around 20%. At the same time, prescription drug use has risen to approximately the same number and probably higher. The best part is that prescription drugs are tax-free and have much, much higher margins. So yes, this is a bold move but also a brilliant preemption of the obvious changes in comfort drugs. 


The e-Cigarette industry is looking at this the same way magazine publishers did when TV ads were banned in 1966. But they may find the demand is not quite what they expect. Even if CVS sells e-Cigarettes, in the perverse world of committed smokers, they are too "healthy." A little banning and notoriety could go a long way! 


Here's how that works: http://bit.ly/1ilcevG 

normbour
normbour

I'm an industry adviser to the Vape Space and see what CVS is doing as being a PRO e-cig message since they are not condemning them, but instead withdrawing tobacco sales. The Vape industry is not going away and as more tightening is put in place you will see consumer backlash as what they see as a NON problem and voice their opinions with regulators and at the voting booths.

JulianPenrod
JulianPenrod

Another example of deceit by the government and corporations. CVS may lose $2 billion from selling cigarettes, directly, but, if cigarettes cause the physical damage that is claimed, CVS would be losing dozens of times that much money in medications prescribed for effects that supposedly come from smoking! And no corporation allows itself to lose that much money! They intend to get it back, in spades! And the manner in which they are intended to get that money back is obvious. Cigarettes were always a way for many to calm down. When it began to be opposed and restricted, its place was taken by drugs. A look at charts for decrease in tobacco use and increase in drug use will show they are exactly complementary, as tobacco use dropped, drug use increased! CVS seems to be telegraphing that Washington is going to declare all drugs, up to cocaine, and heroin legal for all ages! CVS will begin selling them over the counter! Along with the paraphernalia to take them, and the extra medication to handle the harm they will do to those who take them! It's all a criminal scam against the welfare of the public.

bgarr99
bgarr99

Only a few people buy tobacco at drug stores. There is no way they do 2 billion in tobacco sales.

Yoshi
Yoshi

E-cigs aren't smoking. There is no tobacco, no fire, no smoke, no 40,000 chemicals. CVS does sell nicotine gum and patches.

ConfiDintial
ConfiDintial

Smokers can protect themselves against many of the more serious lung and cardiovascular damage by taking an extract of the red wine grape, called transmax-resveratrol. A recently published double blind human clinical trial at the University of Torino Medical School concluded that transmax protects against lung inflammation, solid tumor cancers, oxidative damage, and many of the other types of lung damage and immune deficiencies caused by prolonged tobacco use. A patent was awarded for the use of Resveratrol against COPD, a lung disorder that affects almost all smokers, as well as many industrial workers.


Transmax is already well known for its anti-diabetes and cardiovascular benefits. This new human trial should be at least some good news for long time smokers, but unless they are a scientist they will not find it on CNN or MSNBC.  When this study was released the scientific and medical press covered it extensively, but NO mainstream media picked it up. There is simply too much money in tobacco to worry about the health and life span of smokers, including the kids who are taking it up, and whom it will kill.

Dmmilt
Dmmilt

Excellent article. I just have to add my two cents.

They cannot ban a battery nor an empty clearizer.

Every juice is made different from the other depending on many factors.

UNLESS THEY BAN NICOTINE there is nothing to ban!

1. The company who makes it. EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT.

2. You get to choose nicotene or no nicotine. Most people that are serious about quitting analogs start with a higher level of nicotene adjusting to lower levels until they quit analogs completely.

3. You get to choose the level of VG vs PG.

4. Flavor or Extra flavor. The varity is endless.

4.

sdot87
sdot87

@JulianPenrod  You are indeed a delusional psychopath. You should visit CVS's pharmacy in the near future and get some meds for your problem. 

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