Two Cheers for CVS's Decision to Stop Selling Cigarettes


So the drugstore chain CVS is giving up on smokes. As Reason 24/7 reported earlier today:

CVS Caremark pharmacies will phase out tobacco in U.S. retail stores by Oct. 1, officials announced Wednesday, saying that selling cigarettes side-by-side with medicine undermines the mission of promoting good health.

The chain will lose about $2 billion in revenues annually from sales of tobacco in its 7,600 stores, but CVS Pharmacy president Helena Foulkes said it just makes sense for a firm now positioning itself as a health care company. 

The company's president Helena Foulkes explains:

"It was very important to us that, as we're working with doctors and hospital systems and health plans, that they see us as an extension of their services," Foulkes said. "It's virtually impossible to be in the tobacco business when you want to be a health care partner to the health care system."

Read more here.

I think it's great whenever a business takes steps to implement its vision of social purpose. For sure, there are real questions about just how health-conscious CVS really is. "Good," explains a fake interviewee in The Onion. "I don't want cigarettes sold in the same place I get my flu shot, Red Bull, and mini-donuts."

The freedom to sell what you want—or not—is a marvelous thing and should be applauded whenever it's exercised. I have no idea whether it's a good idea from a stockholder point of view, or even from a customer point of view. I only hope that right-wingers and left-wingers recognize that choice—for the business owner, the customer, the employee—is key. We should all be allowed to do more things than the government currently allows. And to bear the costs of those decisions, including negative (or positive) feedback about those choices. Restaurants should be allowed to permit smoking if they want, for instance, or ban it. Photographers should be allowed to decline offers to cover marriages of which they don't approve. Homeowner associations should be allowed to enforce all sorts of stupid rules and townfolk should be allowed to grow front-yard gardens on their own damn property.

The point is that we should let people make more decisions about their lives, their loves, and their businesses. And live with their consequences.