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Local business owners react to CVS change

BY BEN MARKS | SEPTEMBER 08, 2014 5:00 AM

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CVS has finally gone cold turkey.

More than a month earlier than planned, CVS Caremark announced it finally removed the last cigarettes and other tobacco products from its shelves, and with this change, Iowa City residents are seeing their tobacco selection dwindle.

The company also announced last week a corporate name change and rebranding as CVS Health.

The company’s move comes about as a larger plan to become less of a retail business and more of a health-care provider.

CVS President Larry Merlo said in a statement that removing cigarettes from their shelves, “[Positions CVS] for a growing role in the health-care delivery system.”

With the recent closing of the Tobacco Bowl, a longtime retailer of cigarettes and tobacco products, many smokers around Iowa City are running out of options.

Rex Carter, the manager of the L&M Mighty gas station, 504 E. Burlington St., said when the Tobacco Bowl closed, he believed his establishment had a huge influx of customers.

“For years and years, people went there for specialty cigarettes, but now from what I’ve heard, we’re one of the only places in town that carries Lucky Strikes anymore,” Carter said. “And I imagine that with CVS not carrying tobacco products, we might see another little jump.”

Kelly Stucker, the owner of the Konnexion, and the Convenience Store, 106 S. Linn St., said she is glad to see that CVS is no longer selling cigarettes.

“I think it’s great that a store that promotes health is going to stop selling cigarettes,” she said. “I’ve always thought that was almost an awkward thing to go to a pharmacy and buy something that can kill you.”

Eliminating tobacco products is costly, however, and according to a CVS press release, the business estimates about $2 billion in sales will be lost not only from cigarette sales but from incidentals such as gum and candy, items that tobacco users also buy while in the store for cigarettes.

On the grand scale however, $2 billion however is a small portion of the company’s overall 2013 sales of $126 billion.

Although CVS is the second largest pharmacy in the nation, with more than 7,600 stores nationwide, including two in Iowa City, it is the first major pharmacy in the United States to take tobacco off its shelves.

Greg Woods, the manager of the Kum & Go, 25 W. Burlington St., said a large portion of the store’s sales come from tobacco products, and he believes it will see a profit increase.

“I’m sure that we’re going to gain something out of that,” he said. “Just because of the fact that we’re half a block away, so I’m sure some of that is going to bleed over to there. To what degree, I don’t know, nor do I believe any one knows that yet.”

Some CVS customers, such as Gen Strable, said they believe the company made the right decision. However, she said she does not know how much of an effect it will have on smoking.


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