TAMPA - Don't go to CVS if you're looking to buy a pack of smokes. As of today, you can't buy them there.
CVS announced in February that it planned to drop tobacco by Oct. 1 as the sales conflicted with its health care mission.
The chain has 7,700 retail locations, and is the second-largest drugstore chain in the USA behind Walgreens. The changes are already in evidence in local locations in the Bay Area.
The American Pharmacists Association called on drugstores to stop selling tobacco in March 2010 and several small, independent chains have done so, but CVS is the first large chain to stop tobacco sales.
"CVS' announcement to stop selling tobacco products fully a month early sends a resounding message to the entire retail industry and to its customers that pharmacies should not be in the business of selling tobacco," said Matthew Myers, president of the Washington-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "This is truly an example of a corporation leading and setting a new standard."
At local stores, we found that the tobacco shelves have been replaced with stark red and white posters urging smokers to kick the habit. Free "packs" of quit-tips and coupons for stop-smoking aids are being offered to any customer who asks.
One local CVS employee told me that the program has already helped him.
"I saw this coming," he said. "So I quit myself!"