CVS Caremark said it will stop selling tobacco products, making it the first major pharmacy retailer to voluntarily do so.

CVS store

The nation’s second-largest drugstore chain said Wednesday that it will phase out cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco by October 1, a move that will cost about $2 billion in annual revenue but won’t affect its 2014 earnings forecast. CVS Caremark leaders say removing tobacco will help them grow the company’s business of working with doctors, hospitals and other care providers to improve customers’ health.

“It was very important to us that, as we’re working with doctors and hospital systems and health plans, that they see us as an extension of their services,” Foulkes said. “It’s virtually impossible to be in the tobacco business when you want to be a health care partner to the health care system.”

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Health experts and groups like the American Pharmacists Association and the American Medical Association have urged stores that house pharmacies to stop selling tobacco for years. Many small, independent pharmacies and small private chains already ban tobacco, said John Norton, spokesman for the National Community Pharmacists Association.Target stores stopped selling tobacco products in 1996.

But CVS is the first large retail pharmacy chain to do so.

Pharmacy retailer Walgreens did not respond immediately to the CVS move. Representatives for Rite-Aid Corp. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. wouldn’t comment on the pending announcement late Tuesday, calling it “speculation.”