With CVS Caremark’s recent announcement that it would discontinue the sale of tobacco products from its stores by Oct. 1, 2014, student smokers may find themselves with fewer options outside the Hilltop, but will still have no problem buying cigarettes at Corp locations across campus.
One of the largest pharmacies in the United States, CVS has over 7,600 stores nationwide and over 800 medical clinics within those stores, including a location just off-campus at 1403 Wisconsin Ave. NW. The announcement, which has earned praise from President Barack Obama and several health-focused organizations, makes CVS the first national pharmacy chain to stop selling tobacco products.
“Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS/pharmacy is the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health,” President and CEO of CVS Caremark Larry Merlo said in an official statement Wednesday. “By removing tobacco products from our shelves, we will better serve our patients, clients and health care providers while positioning CVS Caremark for future growth as a health care company.”
Despite the announcement, the Corp will continue to sell tobacco products at its Hoya Snaxa and Vital Vittles storefronts.
“From what I have read, CVS has stopped the sale of cigarettes as they transition from a retail-based company into a full-scale healthcare provider. The Corp’s student-run grocery and convenience stores have no plans to become full-scale healthcare providers, and consequently, have no current plans to stop the sale of cigarettes,” Corp Chief Executive Officer Sam Rodman (MSB ’15) wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Hoya Health Hut employee Annie Coakley (COL’ 16), acknowledged that CVS and Vital Vittles are fundamentally different, and subsequently voiced her support for CVS’s decision.
“There is less contradiction there because they are a grocery store and all grocery stores sell cigarettes. They aren’t pushing it on students with a huge aisle or flagrant advertising,” Coakley said. “I was really interested in [CVS’s decision] … they can’t have a contradictory message of trying to promote wellness while still selling cigarettes. It’s a good strategy on their part.”
Smoker Michael Newton (SFS ’17) noted that, while inconvenient, the policy is a strong stance amid anti-smoking policies that are normally ineffective.
“It’s an inconvenience, because people want products, but it’s a very strong stand in a country with a very strong tobacco lobby. I do approve of it,” Newton said. “I think a lot of other stores should follow, because it seems like legislation such as plain-color packaging won’t stop addicts and the only way to get rid of it is to not provide any product at all.”
The CVS decision could prompt Georgetown students to change their tobacco purchasing habits. Because of the lower tax on tobacco in Virginia, some Georgetown students walk to the CVS across the Key Bridge in Rosslyn, VA to purchase their cigarettes.
“It’s five bucks at CVS and ten bucks at Vittles and around other parts of D.C. because of different tobacco sales tax,” Ruby Hugbee-Velasquez (COL ’17) said. “A lot of people buy at Vittles because of the convenience.”
“It will be inconvenient because I used to go over the Key Bridge to [the CVS in] Rosslyn for cigarettes because it’s a lot cheaper in Virginia. It’s kind of annoying now; I don’t know where I’m going to go … I guess I’ll get them from the Corp, but it’s more expensive,” Isaiah Collins (COL ‘17) said.