(HealthDay News) — The national drug store chain CVS Caremark said Wednesday that it’s phasing out the sale of tobacco products at its more than 7,600 stores across the United States.

The company said cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco will no longer be available at any of the stores by Oct. 1.

CVS said it’s making the move because selling tobacco products isn’t in keeping with a pharmacy’s mission of helping to protect people’s health. It said it’s the first national pharmacy chain to halt the sale of tobacco products.

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“Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS/pharmacy is the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health,” Larry Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Caremark, said in a news release. “Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”

Although the prevalence of cigarette smoking has declined among adults since 1965, the rate of reduction has slowed during the past decade.

RELATED: Tobacco Control Prevented About 8 Million Deaths

“Stopping the sale of cigarettes and tobacco will make a significant difference in reducing the chronic illnesses associated with tobacco use,” CVS Caremark Chief Medical Officer Troyen A. Brennan, MD, MPH, said in the release.

In a viewpoint published online in the JAMA, Brennan and Steven A. Schroeder, director of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at the University of California, San Francisco, noted that the decision is particularly important in light of the changes being made by pharmacies. 

“The paradox of cigarette sales in pharmacies has become even more relevant recently, in large part because of changes in the pharmacy industry. Most pharmacy chains are retooling themselves as an integral part of the health care system. They are offering more counseling by pharmacists, an array of wellness products and outreach to clinicians and health care centers,” they wrote.

“Perhaps more important, pharmacies are moving into the treatment arena, with the advent of retail health clinics. These retail clinics, originally designed to address common acute infections, are gearing up to work with primary care clinicians to assist in treating hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes conditions, all exacerbated by smoking.”

RELATED: ASCO Updates Recommendations for Tobacco Control

Several associations and medical societies have applauded the decision.

In a statement, Harold Wimmer, National President and CEO of the American Lung Association praised CVS Caremark for “stepping forward to save lives and safeguard the public health of millions of American women, men, and youth. The Lung Association commends company leaders for their forward-thinking decision to prioritize the health and well-being of current and future customers and employees and for helping create a tobacco-free generation of youth.”

Similarly, Clifford A. Hudis, MD, FACP, president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), said in a statement: “The oncology community is extremely grateful that CVS Caremark recognized the support for tobacco use has no place in any health care facility and took action. We hope this is an inspirational example of corporate responsibility for others to follow.”

CVS expects to take a hit financially, estimating that it will lose approximately $2 billion in revenues on an annual basis, equating to about 17 cents per share. They are, however, exploring options that will offset the profitability impact, according to the release.