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Why Do Drug Stores Sell Cigarettes? — ‘The Why’

Welcome to the newest edition of The Why.Why do drug stores sell cigarettes?” Good question. (OK, it’s a little commonplace for us but again it beats answering questions about your odder intimate inquiries. Seriously? We thought “The Menthol” was just a kind of cigarette, mmmkay?)


Image: CGW

Why do drug stores sell cigarettes? It’s practically a unique American tradition, boys and girls. It’s all about history.

Let’s review the history here. According to sources such as Wikipedia, outside the US, it’s actually rare for drug stores to sell cigarettes and other tobacco products on the same site “as over-the-counter drugs and prescription medication. “

Don’t forget the anti-tobacco folks assuming everyone is stupid. They’ve been pushing for “the removal of tobacco from pharmacies due to the health risks associated with smoking and the apparent contradiction of selling cigarettes alongside smoking cessation products and asthma medication.”

In fact, long-time ALW readers may recall our coverage of CVS pharmacies announcing on February 5 of last year that by October their 7600 stores would no longer sell cigarettes and other tobacco products. CVS President & CEO Larry J. Merlo stated: “We came to the decision that cigarettes and providing health care just don’t go together in the same setting.”


Image: DadicaGrinch

So with all the conflict and controversy, why do drug stores sell cigarettes? “Drocks27”, a poster on Shower Thoughts, confirms this. “CVS actually stopped selling cigarettes but,” he also notes, “most pharmacy/drug stores in the US sell cigarettes because tobacco has a long history of being used as an herbal remedy.” (See?)


Image: Wikipeida

Ever since it was first introduced into Europe and of course grown as a “cash crop” in the colonies in North America, tobacco has had a very long history of being utilized as an herbal remedy. Sometime around the year 1560 French ambassador Jean Nicot was responsible for making the use of tobacco leaves as a cure for ringworm and carcinoma “in the court of King Francis II of France.”

Wikipedia also confirms that “the Spanish botanist and physician Nicolás Monardes described the medicinal uses of tobacco in his 1565 publication Joyfull Newes out of the New-Found World.” The site also indicates that back in “17th-century France, the leaves of the tobacco plant were thought to have wide-ranging medicinal properties and physicians used it to treat bubonic plague, asthma, cancer, migraine and for pain relief during childbirth.”

That’s not all. Back in 1635 France actually made it a law that tobacco sales would be limited “exclusively to apothecaries.” The US had to get the idea from somewhere, huh?

Selling cigarettes in drug stores is a concept that has its roots steeped in history. Despite the fact that our modern-day physicians are telling us smoking is bad for you, the truth is drug stores selling cigarettes is actually something we’ve been doing in the US for decades.

Why do drug stores sell cigarettes? Now you know.

You ask the questions.  We provide the answers.

American Live Wire . . . Listen and be heard.


About Will Phoenix

W. Scott Phoenix, B.A., B.S. was born in Hawaii, raised in Pennsylvania and resides in California. He has been a published writer since 1978. His work has appeared (under various names) in numerous places in print and online including Examiner.com. He is a single parent of three children and has also worked as an actor, singer and teacher. He has been employed by such publications as the Daily Collegian and the Los Angeles Times.

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