On Wednesday, Walgreens said it had been assessing its sales of tobacco products for some time. We will continue to evaluate the choice of products our customers want, while also helping to educate them and providing smoking cessation products and alternatives that help to reduce the demand for tobacco products, according to a statement released by the company. Although CVS ranks first in overall sales and pharmacy sales among the nation s drugstores, according to analysts, Walgreens is the largest in the number of stores.

Rite Aid, another large chain, said in a statement it continually reviewed product mix to make sure it suits the needs and desires of customers.

As for driving away customers to competitors, Troyen A. Brennan, the executive vice president and chief medical officer for CVS, said It s obvious that the average person will just find somewhere else to buy cigarettes. What we re thinking about is if others want to emulate this business decision we ve made, then over time that will make cigarettes less available and scientific literature does suggest that a reduction in the availability of cigarettes reduces smoking.

Dr. Brennan, together with Steven A. Schroeder of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at the University of California, San Francisco, wrote an op ed article making the case for eliminating tobacco products from drugstores in The Journal of the American Medical Association published online on Wednesday.

Some 18 percent of American adults smoke, down from 42 percent in 1965. In places like New York City, which has used a combination of steep taxes on cigarettes and bans on smoking in most places to discourage smokers, the decline is even greater, down to 14 percent.

But health experts remain concerned because the rate of decline has stagnated over the last decade, and some 480,000 deaths each year are linked to smoking. From 1999 to 2003, for example, the smoking prevalence among high school girls dropped 37 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control, but from 2003 to 2007, the decline was only 2.3 percent.

This month, a group of seven advocacy organizations including the American Heart Association and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids called on governments to take steps to reduce smoking rates to less than 10 percent over the next decade and ensure no American is exposed to secondhand smoke within five years.

We have seen the decrease in initiation of smoking plateau, particularly among some populations of young people, and we ve been working very hard on those populations that have been stubbornly hard to reduce but we need to redouble our efforts, said Risa Lavizzo Mourey, the chief executive of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Decreasing the availability of tobacco products as CVS is doing is an important and bold step toward making it harder for people to get access to these harmful products.

Coincidentally, the F.D.A. announced on Tuesday the start of a national education program aimed at preventing smoking among youth. The ads, which will be distributed across social media platforms, try to show teenagers the toll that smoking takes on the body in memorable ways, such as a young man who uses a pair of pliers to pull a stained tooth from his mouth to buy a pack of cigarettes.

A shortage of primary care doctors and expanding access to health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act is turning drugstore chains into big players in the nation s health care system. Consumers routinely get flu shots in drugstores, for instance, and clinics staffed by nurse practitioners or physician assistants and offering basic care for common ailments like strep throat or pink eye are popping up everywhere from Walgreens to Walmart.

A report last year by Accenture predicted such so called retail clinics were poised to grow at a rate of 25 to 30 percent over the next few years, which would swell the number to 2,800 in 2015, from 1,400 in 2012.

CVS s 800 MinuteClinics already account for most of such outlets, and Mr. Merlo said the company hoped to add another 700 for a total of 1,500 by 2017. For that reason, he said, the decision to stop selling tobacco products was really more of a discussion about how to position the company for future growth.

The company estimated that the decision would erase 17 cents in earnings per share of stock annually, but that it had identified ways of offsetting the impact on profits. (The earnings hit this year will only be 6 cents to 9 cents a share while the company works through its remaining inventory of tobacco products.)

The company hopes to make up some of the lost revenue and income with a smoking cessation program that it is starting this spring with the goal of getting half a million Americans to stop smoking. Helena Foulkes, executive vice president for CVS, said This is the kind of offering we can bring to clients like insurance plans and companies, many of which will pay for such a program.

States step into breach on e-cigarettes – natalie villacorta – politico.com

Bbc news cuba to withdraw cheap cigarettes for elderly

Even cities more than 150 at last count, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago have expanded their smoke free laws to cover products with such alluring names as Vaping Vamps, Apollo, Halo and Envy.

(Also on POLITICO Full health care policy coverage)

While eclipsing federal regulators, the many measures at the state and local levels have been controversial for a surprising reason They ve often been opposed by the same anti smoking forces working so hard to keep e cigarettes out of the hands of children and teens.

The pushback has highlighted the challenges for advocates and public health groups, which believe e cigarettes should be controlled as tobacco products and subject to the same restrictions on sales and advertising, to clean indoor air laws and tobacco taxes. Legislation that appears on the surface to be real progress, they say, can actually undercut those regulatory goals.

“The devil is in the details,” said Cathy Callaway, associate director of state and local campaigns for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, which has worked against recent e cigarette measures in Oklahoma, Ohio and Kentucky and is still skirmishing in Florida.

Tobacco opponents have long wanted strong action by the Food and Drug Administration, which last week finally released a proposed rule that would extend its authority to e cigarettes, cigars, nicotine gels, hookah and dissolvables. The rule comes with a lengthy timeline, however. It could be at least a year before it s finalized and even longer before its provisions, including a ban on sales to youth under the age of 18, go into effect.

Although the industry has publicly supported bans on e cigarette sales to minors at the federal and state level, it also has tried hard to protect its interests. Companies have lobbied state lawmakers to keep e cigarettes from being labeled a tobacco product since nicotine can also be derived from other plants, they note. Without such designation, e cigarettes are exempt from smoke free and tax policies.

Public health groups say the move is straight from big tobacco s playbook distract the public with loud calls to protect kids to skirt further regulation. “It s a wolf in sheep s clothing,” said Erika Sward, assistant vice president for national advocacy at the American Lung Association.

The companies disagree and call advocates rhetoric and resistance counterproductive.

“Our view is, whether it s taxation or public use or any other type of restriction, states and localities should not get ahead of what the FDA s doing because they re going to be setting comprehensive regulatory policy for the new category,” said David Sutton, a spokesman for Altria. Its subsidiary, Nu Mark, manufactures MarkTen e cigarettes.

The industry s position has gained ground in many states. At least 10 state laws use its language in identifying e cigarettes as “vapor products,” “alternative nicotine products” or simply “e cigarettes,” according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. Pending legislation in another half dozen states would use the same terms.

By contrast, just six states currently label e cigarettes to be tobacco products. The latest bills passed in South Dakota and West Virginia this year.

Many of the statutes that separate e cigarettes from tobacco when blocking sales to minors also contain pre emption clauses that strip local governments of the ability to pass stricter regulation. Last week, for example, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law just such a ban.

Such specifics have publicly put the anti smoking community on the spot. Some groups have stayed away from bill signings that they d otherwise celebrate. Others have worked to defeat legislation on the grounds that it would undermine existing tobacco control laws.