What CVS going tobacco-free means for health and business

CVS quits for goodBravo! to CVS/pharmacy who today announced it would pull tobacco products from store shelves by October 2014.

“The sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose,” the company’s press release asserts.

The move will cost CVS $1.5 billion in revenue annually, as the company seeks to consolidate its position as a health company.

CVS/pharmacy is part of CVS Caremark, which includes the retail pharmacy chain (the second-largest in the U.S.), a pharmacy benefit management company (Caremark), and retail health clinics (Minute Clinics). CVS Caremark also participates in a healthy communities program issuing grants for projects that focus on health in local markets.

The Journal of the AMA (JAMA) supports the CVS announcement, saying in this morning’s Viewpoint that, “The paradox of cigarette sales in pharmacies has become even more relevant recently, in large part because of changes in the pharmacy industry. Most pharmacy chains are retooling themselves as an integral part of the health care system. They are offering more counseling by pharmacists, an array of wellness products and outreach to clinicians and health care centers. Perhaps more important, pharmacies are moving into the treatment arena, with the advent of retail health clinics. These retail clinics, originally designed to address common acute infections, are gearing up to work with primary care clinicians to assist in treating hypertension, hyperlipidemia and diabetes all conditions exacerbated by smoking.”

CVS’s no-tobacco strategy comes at a time when the FDA is re-invigorating anti-smoking efforts aimed at teens in America. Here’s a link to one of their new spots, which positions smoking as bad for “my looks,” part of understanding what FDA terms “The Real Cost” of smoking.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: This move by CVS could pay dividends to the store’s brand equity, says Donnie Deutsch on Morning Joe this morning. I agree. IN the past several years, and growing in the post-Great Recession economy, most consumers would rather spend a dollar with a company that reflects their values. As trust between people and institutions erodes, good corporate citizenship bolsters engagement with consumers looking for both “value” and “values” in their lives.

This move represents a major sea-change for public health. People co-create health where they live, work, play, pray….and shop. CVS/pharmacy just won a lot of customers, respect, and revenues to replace the $1.5 bn. And the benefit of improved heart health, reduced chronic burden of disease, and household economies saving money on the direct cost of cigarettes?



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