A Case of Financial Courage

First, a quick question: Which one of these major national retailers does NOT sell cigarettes? Each of the five has a sizable presence in Hawaii, my home state:
• Wal-Mart • Costco • Safeway • CVS (Longs in Hawaii) • Walgreens
Above:  Today’s best selling brands

Smoking, years ago, held an element of glamour. Think of the old days when Lucky Strike sponsored the Hit Parade on radio (“Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco”). Camel’s slogan was: “I’d walk a mile for a mild, mild Camel.” Chesterfield’s slogan was simply, “They satisfy.”

Remember when smoking was allowed — no restrictions — in movie theaters and even on airplanes?

Yikes, even I smoked for a while — after college, in my two years in the Navy. In fact when I met my wife-to-be Margie at Stanford — I was a grad student and she an undergrad — I smoked a bit.

Meantime, of course, the risks of smoking have been well documented by numerous agencies. The World Health Organization estimates that each year tobacco causes about 6 million deaths — or about 10% of all deaths.

No surprise, today smoking is forbidden not only on airplanes but all modes of public transportation.

I think that many us, while we silently tolerated others’ smoking, really were bothered by it.  Now, though, I have become an anti-smoking hawk! But when I see people smoking today, particularly young people, mostly it saddens me.

OK, back to the question: Which of those big retailers doesn’t sell cigarettes?
Answer: CVS, which operates in Hawaii as Longs Drug Stores. When CVS acquired the Longs chain in 2008, it deemed Longs’ share of market in Hawaii to be so large it didn’t want to confuse customers with a new name.

When it stopped cigarette sales, CVS warned that its total sales could take a $2 billion hit. That’s just a fraction of the $139 billion in annual sales CVS generates. But it’s significant!

I say, good for CVS!