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CVS will stop selling cigarettes by October 1st

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cvs flickr hattiesburgmemory

CVS, the nation's second-largest pharmacy chain with 7,600 stores, just announced it will stop selling all cigarettes and tobacco products by October 1st.

"Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS / pharmacy is simply the right thing to do for the good of our customers and our company," CVS said in a press release. "The sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose – helping people on their path to better health."

The company isn't the first major retailer to quit tobacco; Target and Wegmans Food Markets did so in 1996 and 2008, respectively. It's all more bad news for the $100-billion-a-year tobacco industry, which has seen cigarette sales fall 31 percent from 2003 to 2013. Already, CVS competitor Walgreens says it is evaluating the possibility of eliminating tobacco products.

The pharmacy is angling to become more of a healthcare provider

CVS's decision was welcomed by public health advocates, who say smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death in the US.

It's also about the company's bottom line, however. The pharmacy chain is angling to become more of a healthcare provider, offering basic medical services at its in-store clinics, and cigarettes don't fit with its new image. While it will be forfeiting $2 billion in sales a year, CVS is betting it can recoup those losses by adding smoking cessation services to help the seven out of ten smokers who say they want to quit.

President Barack Obama, a former smoker, was moved to congratulate the company. "I applaud this morning’s news that CVS Caremark has decided to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in its stores," he said in a statement.