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| By Wellvyl Media Editorial

“...smoking is the perfect way to commit suicide without actually dying”

  • Damien Hirst , Artist


If you were as socially awkward as I was during high school, most likely you tried smoking a cigarette in the hopes that you would be thrust into overall social acceptance. Instead, you probably coughed hoarsely and questioned your insane decision to voluntarily put such vileness into your mouth. But then a week later, you were given another chance to be considered cool.  You try smoking again, you didn’t cough as hard and this time you could bear that awful taste.

Fast forward to college. Red plastic Solo cups, cheap liquor, and no class the next day. Most of your peers smoke by this point and you have grown accustomed to the pale, lingering clouds of slow-burning Camel Lights. As soon as you enter the party, your body begins to crave the sensations by inhaling the smoke of burning tobacco. Like most “vices”, smoking is a choice, and most vices if tempered by moderation can be visited periodically. However, if you have developed a bad habit and you want to stop, then every decision in your life,  including the retail giants you visit needs to be conducive to that. One nationwide retailer thought so too.

On September 2, 2014, CVS pharmacy became the first major pharmacy retailer to stop selling all tobacco products in their stores. The pharmacy chain recognized the irony of this and made the decision to align its sales offerings with their purpose. Regarding this major decision, CVS CEO Larry Merlo told the Associated Press, “We've come to the conclusion that cigarettes have no place in a setting where healthcare is being delivered”.

Since its first location opened in 1963 in Lowell, MA,  the pharmacy had kept its tobacco product inventory fully stocked. Before their historic decision, CVS tobacco sales amounted $2 billion dollars annually. The company reported an 8% dip in general merchandise sales after its first quarter of not selling tobacco products. However, the $2 billion loss is just a fraction of the $139 billion in annual sales CVS generates.

Limiting access to cigarettes and tobacco does not simply prompt a smoker from relinquishing their long and established habit. At the checkout counter in front of the store where a smoker would usually be tempted by a plethoric wall of tobacco products, is now warmly invited to entertain the idea of quitting with displays for Nicorette gum and Nicoderm patches. 

The pharmacy goes a step beyond offering smoking cessation products; there is the opportunity to participate in their community-based support program, Start to Stop. A comprehensive smoking cessation program offered through their Minute Clinic health care services and support system. According to the Center of Disease and Prevention, smokers double and even triple their chances of quitting by receiving counseling or medicine or both.

The Start to Stop smoking cessation programs combines four critical components that include an assessment of the smoker’s readiness to quit, medication support, coaching, and education.  One’s wellness cannot thrive in isolation and according to the late B.K.S. Iyengar, health is not a commodity to be purchased or bargained for. CVS has set themselves apart by recognizing that their responsibility to public health involves engagement with customers, not just providing merchandise on the shelves. The retailer’s offerings more specifically convey that for their customers to establish and maintain healthy choices, the approach to smoking cessation must be collaborative and multi-dimensional. The services of the Start to Stop program are personalized to the individual’s schedule and needs. No appointment is needed and program participants meet face to face with a nurse practitioner for coaching and progress evaluations. Such collaboration empowers the individual who is struggling to stay with their decision to quit tobacco use.

CVS’s commitment to helping their customers establish healthier patterns is a call to action for other health-related businesses and retailers. To be in the business of health and wellness requires that retailers reevaluate their inventory. As well as be less removed from the populations they serve by understanding how to give more depth to their health-related offerings. It is common knowledge that when a retailer sells cigarettes and tobacco, they bolster their overall sales. By eliminating cigarettes and tobacco from their sales inventory and valuing profit margins, CVS is willing to endure a financial loss for the long-term health of their customers.

The maintenance of well-being does stem from our individual and personal choices., However, our choices regarding our health can be better informed if we have opportunities to engage in dialogue, seek support, and access education at the very places we frequent for our health and wellness needs. The sign, “LET’S QUIT TOGETHER”  is powerfully indicative of the future of social wellness. Building as well as maintaining a healthier society starts with supporting one another in our efforts. Empowering collaborations help to mitigate the overwhelming obstacles that accompany addiction cessation and thus break the cycle of unhealthy patterns. The mentality “it’s your problem, not mine” is isolating and does not serve to encourage anyone. “Let’s quit together” is a new paradigm that emphasizes that support and empathy toward one another, even on the corporate level is necessary for a change in wellbeing.    


Are you having trouble quitting? You can visit the CVS Start To Stop site here. And if you need moral support feel free to reach out to the Wellvyl team, just slide in our DM's on IG!



Amy  is a Yoga teacher, wellness enthusiast, lifelong student, free spirit, and exuberant sci-fi nerd who believes that Yoga is more than a physical practice but a means of calming the chaotic nature of the mind and becoming the best, most authentic version of yourself off the mat. Followe her on Instagram!