CVS Caremark announced this morning that it will stop selling tobacco products at its drugstores, foregoing $2 billion a year in revenues.
Almost instantly, President Obama issued a statement praising the decision:
As one of the largest retailers and pharmacies in America, CVS Caremark sets a powerful example, and today's decision will help advance my Administration's efforts to reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer, and heart disease, as well as bring down health care costs - ultimately saving lives and protecting untold numbers of families from pain and heartbreak for years to come...I congratulate -- and thank -- the CEO of CVS Caremark, Larry Merlo, the board of directors, and all who helped make a choice that will have a profoundly positive impact on the health of our country.
It's a bit strange that the presidential statement was ready to go so quickly. It suggests that the private company's action was somehow coordinated in advance with the government. Was CVS threatened, either directly or subtly, with some more coercive government action if it failed to take this "voluntary" action? It would be easy enough for the president, in his new executive order mode, to issue an order refusing to reimburse Medicare prescriptions filled at pharmacies in retail outlets where tobacco is also sold. Don't be surprised to see other pharamacy chains see the handwriting on the wall and follow in CVS's footsteps.