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Will No-Smokes Pharmacy Sell Vapes?

The large US pharmacy chain CVS has surprised everyone and delighted many by its recent announcement of a plan to end cigarette sales in its stores by October 2014, a move which Time estimates will cost the apothecary about $2 billion (that's billion with a 'b').

This leaves everyone wondering what they will do about electronic cigarettes. Several e-cig manufacturers applauded the altruistic move, but of course they represented "clean-hands" e-cig companies (ones that do not and never have marketed lethal cigarettes), not the 'johnny-come-lately' products now offered by Big Tobacco. Predictably, Stanton Glantz reproached them for their comments, noting that e-cig companies have not submitted applications to market vaping devices as smoking-cessation devices (neglecting to mention that they are not allowed to do so).

It could be that the self-sacrificing act on the part of CVS will finally prompt the FDA to break its silence and come forth with regulations on e-cigarettes. A CVS spokesperson stated that the chain will postpone its decision on whether or not to sell vaping products until the FDA has made some kind of statement.

There is reason to believe that CVS might respond to customer feedback on the issue, feedback that would signal to them that there is a difference between cigalike e-cigs offered by clean-hands companies and those offered by Big Tobacco, and that Big Tobacco does NOT speak for the vaping community. It is conceivable that the drug emporium could be persuaded to offer only clean-hands e-cigs, excluding Blu, MarkTen, Vuse, Vype, Dragonite, Green Smokes, and other brand names that may be introduced in the future by Big Tobacco. Perhaps such a move might even persuade the FDA to recognize this distinction in its regulatory and taxation structures.

The company website has an e-mail response form, and the pulldown menu for "Reason for e-mail" includes the options "Compliment" and "Suggestion", either of which might be the most appropriate categories for this kind of feedback.

The pharmacy chain also has a Facebook page, and as of this writing (about one day after the announcement), the no-smokes item has 322,917 likes, 137,412 shares, and 23,736 comments. An outpouring of support from vapers, expressing the hope that the company's eventual decision will be to offer only clean-hands e-cigs might attract not only corporate, but also public, notice.

The full corporate name of the company is CVS Caremark (Caremark Rx was acquired in 2006), and as "CVS/pharmacy" it operates over seven thousand stores in 42 states of the USA. The initials initially stood for Consumer Value Stores. Among Fortune 500 companies, it ranks 40th globally and 13th in the US. Easy to see that they can afford a couple billion for a public-spirited move. Nonetheless, it is refreshing to see altruism in a corporate boardroom. Makes it seem likely that they will listen to reason about vaping. Worth a try, anyway.