In efforts of continuing their focus on customer health CVS has decided to stop tobacco sales immediately and change their name from CVS/Caremark to CVS Health. CVS is the nation’s second-largest chain of drugstores and while the signs outside their many stores may not reflect this name change the customer’s receipt will. The new corporate name is aimed at providing its many investors with a better sense of what CVS does; retail stores will still be called CVS/Pharmacy.
In conjunction with CVS’ change in name they have moved up their date to cease tobacco sales. Originally this new health initiative was geared for October 1, but the company got ready for the change faster than they anticipated. CVS felt they could no longer sell tobacco products in the same setting they were delivering healthcare and found it difficult to justify when partnering with doctors and hospital groups to improve patient care. This is the first large chain to cease selling tobacco products.
The chain is also launching a smoking-cessation campaign. The campaign will include an assessment to determine the level of readiness the smoker has to quit in addition to medication support to help alter the desire along with education and coaching to help them stay motivated and avoid relapsing. The president of the Washington-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Matthew Myers, said:
CVS’ announcement to stop selling tobacco products fully a month early sends a resounding message to the entire retail industry and to its customers that pharmacies should not be in the business of selling tobacco. This is truly an example of a corporation leading and setting a new standard.
Not everyone agrees with the chain’s decision to stop tobacco sales. Founder of Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment (CLASH), Audrey Silk, said CVS is falling for the anti-smoking “crusade.” She added,
The store has every right to change whatever it sells but we believe they are engaging in public coercion by ceasing cigarette sales, tobacco is legal. Pharmacies used to sell medicines; they have turned into grocery stores. CVS Health? They sell beer and candy, this is a perception war.
Two of the top CVS executives have personal experiences with tobacco related death. The father of Larry Merlo, CEO, died at age 57 due to tobacco related cancer while the mother of Helene Foulkes, CVS/Pharmacy president, died as a result of lung cancer from smoking five years ago.
Numerous testimonies from customers who had already quit smoking were sent to CVS after its initial announcement to no longer carry tobacco products in February. According to Foulkes, many stated it was the hardest thing they had ever done and CVS is determined to make it easier for them, because it just makes sense.
Merlo described the decision to stop selling tobacco as “one of those intangibles” that helps the company win new business and make up for lost sales from cigarettes and related products. He said to end the sale of tobacco products at its stores will cost the company nearly $2 billion in annual sales, which is about three percent of company revenues. He anticipates the loss of tobacco sales to cycle through the next 12 months.
In spite of potential financial losses the chain will incur, the decision to remove tobacco products effective this morning coincides with the company’s decision to also change its corporate name to CVS Health from CVS/Caremark in order to reflect “its broader health care commitment” and desire to change the future health of Americans. Ending tobacco sales will increase CVS’ ability to partner with traditional health care providers.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)