American businesses don’t often put customer’s health before profits.
So you have to admire CVS Pharmacy’s announcement this week that it will stop selling tobacco by October.
Nationally, the big retailer expects to lose about $2 billion in sales — 1.6 percent of 2012 revenue.
All national drugstore chains are adapting to new realities in American medicine. They hope to expand their business by offering more health services — immunizing against flu, managing high blood pressure and treating minor maladies like sinus infection.
It’s a bit embarrassing to hold yourself out as a health care provider on Aisle One and profit from sales of a leading cause of cancer on Aisle Two.
Still, cutting out tobacco sales is remarkable moral leadership when you consider that smokers suffer an addiction — most will buy elsewhere rather than quit. And if they go to a competitor, CVS’ ethics may hurt its standing with stockholders.
It’s worth remembering this bold gamble next time you fill a prescription, go for a flu shot or are just buying a birthday card.
Perhaps that will help CVS’ competitors to consider ethics as part of the business of medicine and follow the CVS lead.