Ayse Gursoz, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit lung-health advocacy group Breathe California, hailed the decision as “groundbreaking.” She called upon CVS’s competitors to follow suit, noting that although tobacco use has declined in recent decades, 19 percent of Americans still smoke.
Daly City Councilman Mike Guingona is working with San Jose-based Breathe California to raise awareness about lung health, and he said he’s trying to build community interest in possible local legislation that would subject electronic cigarettes to the same secondhand smoke restrictions that currently apply to tobacco cigarettes.
CVS spokesman Mike DeAngelis said the chain does not sell electronic cigarettes but is monitoring Food and Drug Administration decisions regarding the products. He declined to speculate as to whether CVS might begin offering e-cigarettes if they were found to be effective smoking-cessation aids.
When New York resident Michael Brochstein heard that CVS was halting tobacco sales, he launched a Change.org petition to persuade drug store chain Walgreens to do the same. The petition currently has more than 6,000 signatures and Brochstein is hoping for a lot more.
“If it goes viral, maybe Walgreens will have to own up to the hypocrisy of selling cigarettes while claiming everything they do is designed to help people get, stay and live well,” Brochstein said.
Walgreens spokesman Jim Graham said the company has been evaluating the tobacco category and is looking at how best to balance the health needs of consumers with the buying choices they expect. The chain offers smoking-cessation products and has launched in-store and Web campaigns, including online tools, to help people quit smoking, he added.
Another CVS competitor whose tobacco sales may fall under closer scrutiny is Rite Aid. In a statement, spokeswoman Ashley Flower didn’t say whether the chain would stop selling tobacco but highlighted the store’s availability of smoking-cessation products. If customers want to quit, Rite Aid pharmacists are there to help, Flower noted.
There are dozens of CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid stores in San Mateo County. Tobacco sales at CVS stores will end Oct. 1. A worker at one of CVS’s two Daly City locations said customers had not offered positive or negative feedback about the impending change.
A San Mateo resident who declined to give her full name said she believes CVS’s decision will make it easier for light smokers like herself to resist the urge.
“I shouldn’t be able to purchase cigarettes at the same place that fills my prescription for emphysema medication,” she said. “That’s sending a mixed message. The less accessible cigarettes are for me, the less I’ll purchase.”