The decision by CVS drug stores to stop selling tobacco products would seem a good business move. Most businesses try not to offend many more customers than they absolutely have to, and by ending tobacco sales, CVS will cease causing offense to non-smoking customers who were offended by the drug stores sales of harmful products just across the store from the pharmacy counter, which is dedicated to good health.
That would seem a good decision for CVS in the long run. The number of nonsmokers is growing so that customer base eventually will be worth more than the smoker base, if it isn’t already.
That being said, the decision is clever for another reason: CVS plans to use the freed-up tobacco-products space to add more medical services to their stores’ offerings. This is part of a long-term trend, one unlikely to change unless the number of doctors being turned out by medical schools suddenly doubles — a great unlikelihood. The trend is that of pharmacies being able to offer such services as vaccinations, diabetes counseling and weight-loss advice, with blood-testing soon to follow.
To prepare for offering more such services, CVS has developed “relationships with health systems across the U.S., including Cleveland Clinic and Emory Healthcare in Atlanta,” says The Wall Street Journal in its Thursday edition. “But in the initial discussions, doctors immediately ask how CVS can still sell tobacco products.”
Many doctors, meanwhile, don’t necessarily see the expansion of pharmaceutical services to minor medical care as much of a concern. When their patients call to make arrangements to get, say, a flu shot, the doctors often recommend they go to their local pharmacy or health department.
There’ll be limits to how much medicine pharmacists will be able to practice. No surgery, for example, regardless of how minor. No diagnostics, either. But they might save some lives by calling their customers’ attention to problems that may need a physician’s attention.