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CVS to go 'Cold Turkey' on Tobacco Products

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SALISBURY, Md.- Every year, CVS brings in some $2 billion in revenue from tobacco products alone. In a stunning announcement Wednesday, the drug store said it is calling it quits, and pulling those products off store shelves in the name of health. In Wicomico County, not everyone is sure the move will make a difference.

CVS will stop selling tobacco products at its 7,600 locations across the country by October 1st. Those who smoke say they understand why CVS is taking such action, but that does not mean they won't just get their fix somewhere else. Others think it is a smart business move, in spite of the financial hit it will bring.

When you have been smoking for years, like Salisbury University senior Kyle Bratton, a cold drizzle won't stop you from lighting up.

"Started smoking around 18," said Bratton, while out in the elements Wednesday. "Since then, I've basically smoked about a pack every two or three days."

But what about a major retailer taking those packs off its shelves?

"As a company, they're going against a business model in order to promote a moral stance," Bratton noted. "And that's admirable. It doesn't really matter, though. There will be tons of places that still sell cigarettes."

Fellow student, and smoker, Matthew Marquis agrees, saying he will just take his business elsewhere.

"I can go to any gas station, Walmart, pretty much any other place and get tobacco," he explained.

So why would CVS go "cold turkey" on $2 billion in sales?

"We have 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners who are helping millions of patients across the country every day manage conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes," said Larry Merlo, President and CEO of CVS Caremark, speaking on CBS This Morning. "All conditions whose effects are worsened by the impact of smoking. We believe this is the right decision for our company. It positions us for future growth, and the opportunity to play a bigger role in our evolving healthcare system."

Jennifer Johnson with the Wicomico County Health Department said this move could spark a trend.

"Once they do it, then others may fall into the same thing, and trying to think of as many ways as we can help the community to be healthy," she explained.

That is something people like Bratton think may actually work in CVS's favor.

"If their business for healthcare provisions increases because they stopped selling cigarettes, then anyone else interested in the same thing will probably follow suit," he said.

It is not just CVS taking a stand against tobacco. The Food and Drug Administration has launched a new anti-smoking campaign aimed at teens. The graphic ads aim to show the real costs of smoking, like skin damage, tooth loss, gum disease and the dangers of addiction. 

"Historically, it hasn't worked with drugs and alcohol, so I don't really know what effect having those kind of ads for tobacco would have," remarked Marquis.

Johnson, however, praised the FDA's efforts.

"Does it make everybody quit? No, not necessarily," she noted. "But you never know, when there's somebody that's on the border of really trying to quit smoking, and that picture just may make them not light up that next cigarette.

According to the CDC, 19 percent of people aged 18 to 24 smoke cigarettes in Maryland.

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