The nation's second-largest pharmacy chain has kicked its tobacco-selling habit a month ahead of schedule, removing cigarettes and other tobacco products at all 7,700 CVS stores. The smokes were taken off the shelves at midnight and replaced with stop-smoking aids like nicotine gum, reports the AP, which notes that the chain has a new name to go with what it says is a new focus on customer health: CVS Health instead of CVS Caremark. The chain announced earlier this year that it would end tobacco sales by Oct. 1 and said the move would cost it around $2 billion in annual sales.
CEO Larry Merlo tells Forbes that ending tobacco sales is "one of those intangibles" that can help it win new business. The chain already runs 900 walk-in clinics and has been working with hospitals and other medical partners. "CVS is really trying very hard to position themselves as the winner in that marketplace," a Forrester Research health care analyst tells the New York Times. "If they can be perceived as a place to go to receive health care, and buy health care products, as opposed to the place to go to buy a bottle of whiskey or get your film developed, then they can capture more of the retail medicine dollars."