Pharmacy Gets Out of Cigarette Business

Discussion
Feb 16, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Bayshore Pharmacy is all about health and, to prove it, the drugstore is walking away from the sale of 360 cartons of cigarettes a month.


Pharmacist Richard Stryler, an ex-smoker himself, said the decision to stop selling cigarettes was easy to make. “We provide health care, we provide things that make people feel better, then we sell them cigarettes,” he said. “We don’t need it anymore. We don’t want it anymore.”


New Jersey Assemblyman Steven J. Corodemus (R-Monmouth) was on hand as the pharmacy dumped its stock and handed over its license to sell cigarettes.


“It’s a real statement, ‘We’re so concerned about your health that we’re not going to contribute to its downfall,’ ” he told the Asbury Park Press. “I think, of all the professions, pharmacists have the highest respect from their customers… and that’s indicative of what they’re doing.”


Others are less sure about the wisdom of the move.


Vish Gadey, who owns Sun Ray Drugs and Medical in Middletown, NJ, said, “I wish I could stop selling tobacco. (But) I have so many customers who have a habit of coming, buying their morning newspaper and cigarettes and lottery. I’m a little concerned about cutting their routines.”


Mr. Stryker is hoping that his customers will follow Bayshore Pharmacy’s lead and give up cigarettes themselves. “I think cigarettes were 30 cents a pack when I started working here, and the same people who said they’re going to quit at 40 cents (a pack) are still saying they’re going to quit,” he said. “It’s still cheaper than a carton of cigarettes to get a week’s worth of (smoking-cessation) patches. So there’s no reason not to.”


Moderator’s Comment: Can pharmacies afford to get out of the tobacco business? What impact will not selling cigarettes have on their top and bottom lines?

George Anderson – Moderator

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12 Comments on "Pharmacy Gets Out of Cigarette Business"


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Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 10 days ago

It’s an interesting decision. Maybe he’s done his homework and calculates a low impact to his sales. Maybe he’s not selling many in the first place. Sending a customer elsewhere is a difficult decision. I neither commend him nor disapprove. It’s a legal product to sell and, as long as it remains that way, I see no real issue with other retailers selling them. I have, however, predicted for a long time that the sale of cigarettes will become so politically incorrect that they will only be sold at tobacco stores. They are already popping up in larger number.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 10 days ago
Cigarette volume is largely dependent on the retail price. Retailers who sharply discount cigarettes do great volume. Of course, after the credit card fees, the net margin can be paper thin. The best financial argument for continuing cigarettes is the assumption that the customers will buy other things, too. The space given to cigarettes, if given to other compelling categories, can keep or enhance the store’s profitability. Depending on the demographics and competitive situation, anything from fresh-baked bread, donuts, desserts, beer, soda pop, and herbal remedies to high end fragrances (even if discounted) can replace or exceed the lost cigarette margin and the associated impulse sales. The drugstore industry could adopt a public-relations driven “retailer health pledge” and have door stickers and signs with a logo (such as a cigarette pack with a 45 degree red line through it). This could be driven by the American Cancer Society for drugstores, convenience stores, etc. The American Cancer Society could honor those store owners taking the pledge with celebrity ribbon cuttings at each location, covered by local… Read more »
Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
15 years 10 days ago

As Mark has pointed out, the profits from cigarette sales can be razor thin. However, this is often offset by very lucrative payments by the tobacco companies. For some of the larger operators these payments run into the millions of dollars. While volume of 350 cartons a month may have not produced millions, it could have produced thousands of contract dollars which this pharmacy has decided to give up. I applaud them for making the decision to do away with one of the most addictive products available for sale in the USA. I would only hope that other retailers will follow this lead but like the government, most retailers have become addicted to the taxes and payments provided by tobacco products.

Bernie Slome
Guest
Bernie Slome
15 years 10 days ago

While this is not the first time I have heard of a pharmacy discontinuing the sale of tobacco, I am somewhat surprised that it hasn’t gone much beyond the “mom & pop”, non-chain drug stores. What Bayshore Pharmacy has done says that ethics, morals and beliefs are more important than the extra dollars that can be made from selling a potentially harmful product. Mr. Stryler is to be commended and applauded for his commitment to his ideals rather than to his pocket. I hope that his pocket ends up being rewarded as well.

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
15 years 10 days ago

I agree–applause for Mr. Stryker.

However, the fact is he will lose business. And not only cigarette sales but revenues from other items smokers would pick up.

The trick is for the pharmacy–as well as supermarkets–to come up with services that will offset the loss of the revenue. Having spoken to some pharmacy people recently, the key will be to turn supermarket pharmacies–or any retail operation for that matter–into a wellness center with interaction between the pharmacy and other departments in the store.

This is getting a bit off track, but the fact is that with new Medicare Part D regulations, reimbursements for prescription drugs are declining precipitously. Forward thinking retailers will be getting into new services like in-store clinics and the relatively new concept of MTM–Medication Therapy Management, under which pharmacies can receive payments for consulting services. Keep an eye on this.

George Anderson
Guest
George Anderson
15 years 10 days ago

When all is said and done, this will hurt Bayshore’s business. It would be interesting to check back in a few months and see how everyone feels about this decision.

jared colautti
Guest
jared colautti
15 years 10 days ago

Here in Canada, national drug store chains stopped selling cigarettes a few years ago. Granted, Canada’s anti-smoking laws are much more draconian, but from what I can see it hasn’t affected their sales too drastically, if at all.

I applaud the move and hope others follow suit.

Art Williams
Guest
Art Williams
15 years 10 days ago

I applaud this decision and hope that the negative effect on their business is small. It is easy to calculate the lost sales and profits on the cigarettes but not so easy for any lost customers. I hope that this works out well and serves as an example for other businesses to follow.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 10 days ago

Of course pharmacies can afford to get out of the tobacco business. (It’s the loss of the accompanying disposable lighter biz that will hurt the most.) Seriously, though, does this include snuff and chewing tobacco? And if they decide to take a stand on unhealthful products, will they eliminate their liquor, wine, and beer departments? Will Wal-Mart’s stand against smutty magazines and violent videogames be expanded to include these items? Next will be the elimination of fatty and salty foods from the shelves.

Forgive these sloppy “slippery slope” comments. Anyone can reach these conclusions. Retailers follow their hearts and convictions all the time, such as being closed on their Sabbaths. A bias against tobacco sales, however, will not have the same “legs” as the bias against smoking and its attendant secondhand smoke problems.

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 10 days ago

It depends on the neighborhood. Obviously, Whole Foods does fine and dandy not selling cigarettes. But they typically do not locate in those low income neighborhoods where smokers often choose to live. Cigarettes attract the wrong crowd and some stores simply don’t want the problems that come with cigarettes.

Richard Wakeham
Guest
Richard Wakeham
15 years 9 days ago

It appears that the front end departments of drug stores are steadily in decline already. This sounds like the “cutting off your nose to spite your face” marketing concept. Can you imagine the outcry of Marriott Hotel customers if J.W. Marriott, a good Mormon, decided not to serve coffee at their hotels, or….close down the lounges? Give me a break. This is akin to the pharmacist who wouldn’t sell the “morning after” pill. If the products are not profitable for your organization, that’s one thing. If it is profitable and legal and you drop it, you’ll just drive the business to another location.

Leonard Edloe
Guest
Leonard Edloe
15 years 8 days ago

I made the same decision over 25 years ago in a city where tobacco is king. Many of my patients had written on their checks, “this is tobacco money.” Over the years, the move has strengthened my practice. Patients know that I am truly a health professional and I put their health first. This is a more difficult decision today because pharmacists are being paid less and less by insurance companies and we need every cent that we can find that will go to the bottom line. I say great move; hang in there; truly be a professional.

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