Nightly News   |  February 05, 2014

CVS to Drop Tobacco Products

The move by drugstore CVS to pull cigarettes and tobacco off its shelves could represent the beginning of a major cultural shift.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> pharmacy chain it will stop selling tobacco even though it will mean losing millions in sale. it caught a lot of people's attention today including the president and the first lady. we get our report now from nbc's tom costello.

>> reporter: the news out of cvs today could represent a water shed moment.

>> breaking news right now. this is big. cvs caremark this morning.

>> reporter: the biggest chain in the country out of selling tobacco by october 1st .

>> this is where health care is going. because we know the sale of tobacco is extremely inconsistent with being a health care provider .

>> reporter: it's a big victory for the nation's biggest health organizations who for years have called on pharmacy chains to stop selling cigarettes and chewing tobacco .

>> any business that's selling health care should not be selling a product that kills half of the people who use it.

>> reporter: but at its core, this is a business decision. cvs has a massive mail order and in-store pharmacy business. and its minute clinics have practitioners who can check throat problems or bronchitis. from customers today, the reaction was mostly positive.

>> it would be nice to completely not smoking, so maybe that will help me.

>> what a great way to improve people's health.

>> reporter: the decision isn't without cost. cvs says they will lose $2.5 billion in tobacco sales. and another on what people pick up when they come in to shop tobacco. president obama said cvs caremark sets an example. while rj reynolds says we respect their decision.

>> clearly from a dollars and cents perspective, the long-term bet is on health care , not the cigarette business.

>> reporter: but will other retailers follow the cvs lead? today walgreens said it's been evaluating this product category for some time to balance the choices our customers expect from us with their ongoing health needs. while most cigarettes are bought in convenience stores , the pressure may be on the others to follow the leader . tom costello, nbc news, bethesda, maryland.