CVS Goes Tobacco Free

13 Sep CVS Goes Tobacco Free

When it seems like a new pharmacy is popping up on every corner, it can be hard for chains to distinguish themselves as the better option. CVS made a bold move in February when they announced their plan to rid shelves of tobacco products at all of their 7,700 retail pharmacies across the country. The “Quit With Us” campaign has been in full swing for 6 months and is close to reaching their goal of ridding all tobacco products from stores by October. In almost every CVS location across the country, packs of cigarettes and cigars behind the counter have been replaced with nicotine gum and signs advertising a smoke-free life.

CVS executives viewed the banishment of tobacco as getting rid of a product that doesn’t represent an image they want to project. In a statement, CVS Chief Executive Larry Merlo said, “Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.” CVS wants to be known for promoting health and wellness and thought that selling cigarettes in an era where 81% of adults are smoke free contradicted that vision.

Executing a well designed PR and social media campaign around the decision has garnered the company a ton of positive press and support. The inclusive campaign, urging smokers to “quit with us,” includes pamphlets on smoking tips in every CVS store, resources in store and online to help the quitting process, and an interactive social media campaign.

The campaign, using the hashtag #OneGoodReason, focuses on the health benefits and advantages to quitting a tobacco habit. The company encourages social media users to post with the hashtag to share their personal stories about how tobacco use has affected their lives and occasionally features tweets on the corporate feed. The “One Good Reason” section of their website features success stories, tips for quitting, and “help me quit now” links.

Positive health benefits of the “Quit With Us” campaign aside; CVS factored profitability into their strategy. CVS executives predict that the decision to stop selling tobacco will cost the company roughly $2 billion in annual revenue, around 1.5% of total sales. However, the company believes they will be able to leverage the positive press that comes with their smoke-free image to win more profitable deals with hospitals and health insurers.

Sally McHugh
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