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Editorial: CVS call on tobacco is right on

The decision by the second-largest U.S. pharmacy chain to quit selling tobacco products by October is both the right public health call and a smart business decision.

CVS, which has several stores in the Red River Valley region, announced its decision last week to some fanfare. Framing the end of tobacco sales in health terms, executives of the chain said it was contradictory for a business that promotes a healthy lifestyle to be selling a product that is not healthy. That makes sense. The logic is flawless. And from a public relations perspective, CVS could not have done better.

Therein is the business savvy. CVS projects that it stands to lose up to $2 billion in revenue by ending tobacco sales. How is that business savvy? The company has thought it through.

First, CVS is a leader in establishing in-store mini-clinics, often staffed by nurses or physician assistants. The aim is to get ahead of health care changes caused by the Affordable Care Act, which, some analysts say, will compel some sick people to seek basic care and medicines at less-expensive and more convenient venues. The CVS mini-clinics will be well-suited to accommodate that traffic, and the revenue that will come with it.

Second, tobacco use in nearly all its forms is being marginalized at an ever-increasing rate. CVS joins the ranks of “good corporate citizen,” and redefines “corporate responsibility” by getting tobacco products off its shelves. As a major cog in the nation’s health care machinery, the good will CVS will gain from the move is worth millions of dollars in essentially free advertising.

Finally, CVS sends the right signal to other major pharmacy companies, some of which have fought city and state regulations to remove tobacco from retail stores. The message is twofold: It’s a good business decision, and it’s the right thing to do.