President Obama on Wednesday hailed the decision by CVS Caremark to become the nation's first large retail pharmacy chain to stop selling tobacco products.

“I applaud this morning's news that CVS Caremark has decided to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in its stores, and begin a national campaign to help millions of Americans quit smoking instead,” said Obama in a statement.

“As one of the largest retailers and pharmacies in America, CVS Caremark sets a powerful example, and today's decision will help advance my Administration's efforts to reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer, and heart disease, as well as bring down health care costs - ultimately saving lives and protecting untold numbers of families from pain and heartbreak for years to come,” he added.

Obama congratulated and thanked CVS CEO Larry Merlo and the company’s board of directors for making a choice that “will have a profoundly positive impact on the health of our country.”

The pharmacy chain CVS announced on Wednesday that they would stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in their more than 7,600 stores by October 2014.

“Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS/pharmacy is simply the right thing to do for the good of our customers and our company,” said the company in a statement on their corporate website. “The sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose – helping people on their path to better health.”

While CVS is the first nationwide pharmacy chain to take this step, other retail outlets have previously dropped tobacco sales -- most notably Target department stores in 1996.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also praised the decision, tweeting: “I applaud CVS Caremark Corp. for their leadership in helping to make the next generation #Tobaccofree!”

President Obama, a former smoker, kicked his own nicotine habit after the 2008 presidential election. In an interview last year, Obama joked that he only quit smoking because he was “scared of my wife.”