It always seemed odd that some drugstores, where people go for medicines to make them well, would also dispense a product known to kill its users.

CVS Caremark has finally recognized that incongruity.

"We've come to the conclusion that cigarettes have no place in a setting where health care is being delivered," CEO Larry Merlo said.

The country's No. 2 drugstore chain announced Wednesday it will stop selling all tobacco products at its 7,600 locations starting Oct. 1.

At the same time, the company said, it will expand its smoking cessation efforts, training pharmacists to counsel smokers and possibly turning over the shelf space previously occupied by tobacco to cessation products.

Good for CVS.

The only question is what took it so long – and why aren't more retailers following suit?

It has been 50 years since then-U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry issued a report linking smoking and life-threatening illness and calling for government action to combat it.

Efforts in the ensuing decades led to a decrease in the percentage of American smokers – from 42 percent in 1964 to 18 percent today.

That's a huge improvement but still translates to 43 million people in this country who haven't gotten the message.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates smoking kills more than 440,000 people a year, including deaths from second-hand smoke. Clearly more needs to be done to eliminate this scourge (what better way to describe an addictive product that, when used as intended, kills hundreds of thousands?).


The Food and Drug Administration, which was given expanded authority by Congress in 2009 to regulate the tobacco industry, recognizes this.

On Tuesday the agency launched what's being billed as the largest anti-smoking effort ever.

Called "The Real Cost," the $115 million multimedia campaign targets teens and is intended to dissuade them from picking up the habit or encourage them to quit if they've already started.

Hopefully, it succeeds.

We suspect the odds will be better with high-profile companies like CVS getting out of the tobacco businesses.

After all, it's harder to start smoking and easier to quit when cigarettes aren't so readily available.