It Took 50 Years for Pharmacies to Oust Tobacco. Timetable for Candy?

Coke Featured at CVS


CVS shocked the public and markets when it announced yesterday that it will stop selling tobacco before the end of the year. As a result, the pharmacy chain will lose two billion dollars in annual revenue. While this seems like a stupid move, it is actually clever and calculated.

First and foremost, this was not a moral decision, but a business one. The time for social consciousness was 50 years ago when evidence about the health damage of cigarettes was accepted as unequivocal.

Second, CVS has an annual revenue of $125 billion, so the revenue hit is less than two percent. The goodwill and PR generated by CVS’s announcement will likely increase the chain’s non-tobacco sales to compensate. That’s why it’s clear that Walgreen’s and other competitors must follow through and end tobacco sales as well.

Strategically, there is a pot of gold in providing health services. CVS-Caremark, the corporate parent of the CVS pharmacy chain, is trying to get in on this business with in-store mini clinics. To be effective in messaging this, it has to remove harmful products from its mix.

Which brings us to candy – both in its solid form and as liquid (sweetened beverages). There is no place for junk foods and beverages in a pharmacy. We don’t have numbers for the revenue that these products generate, but based on entire aisles dedicated to them, it’s probably north of 10 billion annually.

Giving up these sales will be much harder, but it’s the right thing to do. How can you open a diabetes care center adjacent to aisle 7, where a six-pack of Coke is on sale for $1.99?

  • EVIL food scientist.

    You will get my Lemonheads from me when you pry them from my cold dead hands.

    • Fooducate

      Do you suck them after smoking?

      • Max_Freedom

        All candy should be a grade F. There are no benefits.
        I agree with the A for Apples.

      • EVIL food scientist

        you don’t suck on Lemonheads, you chew them to release the citrus-y goodness!

      • HealthyMomInSC

        Fooducate, that was quite rude! I can’t believe how snide you’ve gotten in the last few weeks with the articles and comments. No matter how healthy you expect people to be, there is a huge difference between enjoying a few Lemonheads and smoking. How many people are being turned off by your comments like this, but don’t want to say anything to you?? Gotta be nice to the app owner, right?

  • JES

    I wonder everyday where CHOICE is going in our country. Just because it is there does not mean you have to CHOOSE to buy it. If you do CHOOSE to buy it then you ACCEPT the consequences.

    • erika

      yes and by eliminating that choice we can save lives..if you’re on this app shouldn’t you care about health? smoking is not healthy->eliminate it.

      • Josh M

        that is a bigoted and self righteous aproach. You should be ashamed to suggest that someone’s choice should be taken out of their hands. However, it only makes sense that pharmacy should not promote unhealthy products.

    • Max_Freedom

      We still don’t need it in our faces everywhere.
      You can’t go to a pharmacy or gas station without visiting the gigantic wall of cancer. It seems unnecessary.

    • Brenna

      I agree with you. But for many people- especially children and younger people- it’s not as easy to make that choice because they don’t understand that. If we can- as a whole- eliminate the issue then there wouldn’t be a problem in the first place. But yes, in reality we should all choose to be healthier. But we don’t. And sometimes we try- and then go t the store to get a prescription or groceries and end up walking out with candy. Just sayin…

  • Max_Freedom

    I love that you brought this up.
    At Fresh Market, the healthy, organic grocery store, they have huge barrels overflowing with candy everywhere. I just don’t get it.

  • Jessica

    I am so bored of Fooducate’s consistent lack of regard for consumer choice and their support in expanding the federal government’s already enormous power base. Boring. Get off the pulpit.

    • Fooducate

      Hey, if you’re bored, there are tons of interesting websites with pictures of cats out there.

      But seriously, we love choice. 2 notes:
      1. Nobody regulated CVS. The company did it on its own.
      2. The federal government is bloated, and at times borderline corrupt, but that does not mean corporations should have free reign to dupe consumers or poison them. We need better, not bigger, government.

      Now, where are those interesting cat pics?

  • Carol H

    Tobacco makes sense to eliminate (even from an economic standpoint, because in the US the number of smokers is dropping rapidly), but “candy” is much harder to define (would dried dates and other fruit items that are mostly sugar be banned?). Also, unlike in Europe and other countries, there is really no such thing as a “pharmacy” in the US anymore. They were bought out by larger stores/chains… and morphed into large convenience stores that sell almost everything, so food is a useful item to carry. The store knows that you would otherwise go to Walmart or Safeway to get your candy bar fix, so I don’t have a problem with them selling it. That said, I never drink soda and rarely eat “candy” … except maybe good chocolate, chocolate-covered nuts, etc. ;-) … which I am glad I can get at a “drug store” in a pinch.

  • 4theluv

    I believe in making smart, informed health choices about anything and everything I ingest in any manner. I don’t smoke cigarettes, but do enjoy the ocaisional cigar. I do that fully aware of the risks. The CVS move is a business move, no doubt, and I don’t blame them for that. They are in business to make money, and they choose not to make it off cigarettes, despite the fact it is probably not a huge part of their business model. The only thing I ever ask, be it GMOs, Organics, processed food, etc., just give me the TRUE facts and let me decide if I want to ingest it. I’m against others deciding my future for me. I’ll live with my choices, but at least have the curtesy to let me make them.

    And by the way, even if I smoked I would not go to CVS to by them, though apparently $2billion in sales indicates at least a size able group does.

  • Danielle Robertson

    Paracelsus, the Father of Toxicology, said (paraphrasing) The difference between a poison and a cure is the dosage. I don’t think any dose of tobacco is healthy, but how about one pack of M&Ms on a camping trip? Moderation is key, that is my response to all the comments below about “eliminating choice”. (Here’s to you, JES) I agree candy shouldn’t be everywhere, for the same reason I hate it when people bring cake into the office, especially because I work for a protein supplement company that’s supposed to promote good health. (Here’s to you, Max_Freedom). @GreenEyedGuide

  • irreverentalien

    There is one more reason that probably lead to CVS dropping Tobacco and that is less known to the public. Coca Cola company has announced a while back to all kind of retailers that coupons for Coca Cola products can not be redeemed at locations that sell tobacco products. Why did CC take this step? Probably pressure from some interest group.
    so one side of the scale had in it:
    - image gain from dropping cigarettes and sales ensuing from that
    - loosing in the coupon business (Coke is very popular in less educated, lower income families, and in a lot of poorer urban areas CVS is one of the only places to shop at, in these times of ever growing big box supermarkets and disappearing family corner stores)
    - freeing shelf space for more profitable goods instead of the dwindling cigarette sales
    the other side with:
    2 billion dollar sales per year chainwide (at 7600+ stores that makes about 265k USD per year, 22k per month per store) of lost income in cigarette sales, but a number that must have been declining for years

    given all these reasons, I certainly doubt that they will drop their sugary sodas or candy business anytime in the near future. And here goes one more reason.

    CVS and similar chains draw people into their stores, with a marquee offer announcement for 2.99 USD per gallon of milk. Any dairy wholesaler will tell you this is a real loosing business. But who ever walked between the milk coolers and the registers knows what CVS makes the most money on in the store.

  • LeAnn @ Real Fit, Real Food Mo

    My husband just asked me about candy and pop last night! I’m all for CVS removing them from their stores–the less EASY access people have to this stuff, the better!

    • HealthyMomInSC

      If they don’t get it at CVS, they will just go to the convenience store next door. Why do you feel you have the right to dictate what other people eat? You make your lifestyle choices, and let them make theirs. What is it with people wanting to rule everyone else’s lives in this country?

      • LeAnn @ Real Fit, Real Food Mo

        You’re right HealthyMomInSC–I should have clarified what I meant in this response. I write a blog that focuses on eating REAL food with real ingredients (basically nothing processed). I do NOT think we should make choices for other people…BUT, I do believe that companies should make food using real FOOD ingredients, rather than artificial ones. I love treats–my blog is filled with homemade ice cream and cake and cookies–but the difference is that I don’t use artificial food dyes and artificial ingredients that are made in a factory with chemical processes. If Snickers made a candy bar that was only chocolate, peanuts, sugar, etc…then I would be totally okay with that. However, there is also partially hydrogenated soybean oil (GMOs) and ‘artificial flavor’ in a Snickers bar. That’s where I get upset. Most people aren’t well informed enough on these non-food ingredients to make the proper choice (I wasn’t until just one year ago!). I think given the choice and basic information, everyone would choose real food treats over treats filled with chemicals. And as far as pop/soda… caramel coloring has been linked to cancer in numerous studies. It’s dangerous to people’s health and I really don’t see a need for it. For me, it’s all about removing the artificial ingredients rather than removing the ‘treats’ and ‘snacks.’ These companies can make real food that people enjoy…and still make a profit.

  • jellynjam

    “Giving up these (soft drinks and candy) sales will be much harder. But it’s the right thing to
    do. How can you open a diabetes care center adjacent to aisle 7, where a
    six-pack of Coke is on sale for $1.99″?

    Is CVS ONLY a diabetes care center?? How about the diabetics just NOT BUY the coke and candy? Sheesh.

  • super bubba

    Why not go after alcohol as well and just become an old fashioned Corner Values Store? :eyeroll: I applaud the effort but oddly it makes me think less about this option for health services since they’re so diametrically opposed to cigarette/chew/dip. I get it; I’m not welcome.

  • Ashley

    I totally agree with removing cigarettes from stores…virtually everyone who smokes, does it on a consistent basis, every day, leading to serious health problems & very potentially death.

    But c’mon, you’re gonna tell me candy needs to be banned from stores? I eat very healthy, organic when I can, but every couple of months I just feel like having a piece of candy. If someone lacks the will power to make their own decision of eating candy every day or not, they’ve got bigger issues.

  • rozie

    I believe in having a choice. …However I do think removing cigarettes from stores (or banning it all together preferably) is the right decision. Smoking is a choice that does NOT only affect the person choosing to do it. Its proven to be unhealthy for those around the smoker as well. Smoking makes everyone around it ill in some manner…weather smokers like to own up to it or not. Thats just fact.
    Removing candy from stores might be taking it a bit to far. Is it healthy? Of course not. But what is “healthy” anymore. Unless you live on a plant only based diet your eating unhealthy at some point. And even then you would only be able to eat fresh homegrown to be really healthy. If I choose to eat a piece of candy it doesnt harm anyone else. If a diabetic eats candy then they do so knowing full well the consequences. I would encourage them not to…but I wouldn’t take the choice out of thier hands completely. Moderation is the key! Oh yea….and my good friend is diabetic..she can’t eat fruit because its to sugary. You gonna remove fruit from stores too?

  • Bill

    What ever happened to freedom of choice. The nazi’s now determine what we can do? WHERE ARE YOUR PAPERS will be next.

  • Bill

    Oh and do not forget the fragrances is find objectionable, also.

  • Bill

    And oh yeah….. I am sure these same anti smoking nazis are…IN FAVOR OF LEGAL POT USE.

  • Cactus_Wren

    Removing all products containing tobacco from the chain’s stores will be logistically a simple task.

    Removing all products containing sugar might prove a trifle more challenging.

  • SuperMom101

    This discussion is not about choice (and cigarettes are an easy target.) I had cancer at the age of 38 and had no idea about America’s “food” supply – and I thought I was eating healthy.

    Here’s how it works: Let me pick up my diet coke, bag of chips and “healthy walnuts” that have a list of chemicals I can’t even pronounce on my way back to the pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions. Oh wait, chemicals and dyes in the candy are banned in other countries. Oh, and so is GMO. Wait, there’s high fructose corn syrup in that soda – hmmmm… but Mexico won’t allow it in their sodas and the list goes on and on and on…

    Does anyone else find it strange that America (and her children) have never been fatter or sicker and we can’t seem to figure out why.

    Thanks Fooducate for bringing up this issue – I was just thinking of it yesterday.

  • DeeDee

    Remember, that’s $2 billion dollars in SALES, not profit. I suspect that the costs of shelving the product, having a cashier unlock a case to purchase it, and all the taxes to keep track of and pay have made it less profitable than other items. And if it keeps a few people from getting cancer, so much the better.

  • Lunelle

    Here, in the province of Quebec, Canada. There’s no tobacco products in drug stores and it must be hidden in other stores. I still make the choice to smoke.
    There’s plenty of candy, chocolate and other “pleasure” food in drug stores, but I don’t but it in drug store. Drug stores are for health and “taking care” things. I will never ban pleasure food in my life, but now I eat them to take care and “enjoy” them, not to eat, not because I’m thirsty.
    What I dream about is not a store without candy, it’s a store where they are in the aisle and where the close to cash register display have small things I always forget to buy.
    However, tobaco is bad, I’ll quit eventualy. I was 4-6 years old when they were banned from drug stores. I think this part of why I don’t buy candy there. And the root of “Tobaco is not good” mindset for me. I buy them in the candy store… (Read Dépanneur or Convenience store)

  • vroomvsr

    Just because many Americans are too idiotic to make healthy decisions doesn’t mean that America has to babysit it’s citizens