CVS Caremark announced today that by October 1, it will stop selling cigarettes and tobacco products in its stores, completely. President and CEO, Larry J. Merlo, said in a statement, "Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose." That is, their purpose of being a place that people turn to for health care. Not only is CVS the first national pharmacy chain to take this step, but it's the first time in 18 years that any national retail chain has done this. (Target stopped selling tobacco products in 1996.) The nation's second-largest drugstore chain (only Walgreens is bigger) will put this ban into effect in all of its 7,600 retail stores at an estimated loss of $2 billion in annual sales. That sounds like a lot, but that's only about 1.6% of the company's total revenue. The company has said that it will recoup these losses in other areas, but did not elaborate on those plans. Beyond stopping the sale of these items, CVS will be going a step further with plans to launch a "national smoking cessation program" that will launch this spring. The program will include information available in-store and online, plus access to treatment in CVS pharmacy and Minute Clinic locations. Related DealNews Features: Net Neutrality Neutered: How the Verizon Court Decision Affects You VIDEO: HP Will Sell Windows 7 PCs Again, Will Others Do the Same? If 'Candy' Gets Trademarked, What Do We Call These 8 Things?