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#PR: CVSCaremark's Gutsy 'No Butts' Decision
By: Gerard E. Mayers
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In a column recently in PRNewsOnline, Matthew Schwartz writes of the ground-breaking decision made by CVSCaremark, the nation's largest pharmacy chain, to stamp out cigarette- and other tobacco-related sales. As Schwartz noted, the move “would remove all tobacco products at its 26,000 pharmacies by October. It’s the first national pharmacy chain to take this action. The company’s decision will cost it an estimated $2 billion in sales from tobacco buyers, according to reports, but that’s a drop in the bucket considering its overall sales of $123 billion in 2012. Yet that money may be easily recouped as CVS touts its healthcare services. Either way, CVS has cleared the air about the role the company wants to play in U.S. Healthcare.”

In one stroke, CVS has rebranded itself as a major healthcare player. This is indeed a gutsy move. It was such a gutsy move that even President Obama felt compelled to make a comment or two on its significance, citing the decision as a compelling example of how organizations can work with his Administration to reduce tobacco related deaths as well as cancer and heart disease.

In a statement, the company's own CEO (Larry Merlo) noted: “Cigarettes and tobacco products have no place in a setting where healthcare is delivered. This is the right thing to do.” Also referring to the decision, Merlo commented, “By removing tobacco products from our retail shelves, we will better serve our patients, clients and healthcare providers while positioning CVS Caremark for future growth as a healthcare company.”

You can be sure other large pharmacies and chains will follow suit, making tobacco and related products that much harder or difficult to obtain. From a PR viewpoint, does this infringe on a personal choice? Quite possibly. From a PR viewpoint of a good public health move, does the CVS decision have the potential to change the overall public health of the country? Perhaps.

One thing, however, is clear as Schwartz pointed out for us flacks: “CVS’s move provides a robust example for PR pros and communicators who are eager to change the perception of their brands: Take a leadership role, be bold and, perhaps most important, be prepared to follow your decision with action.”

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About the Author
Gerard E. "Gerry" Mayers writes about PR and other relevant topics for PR professionals. A former PR manager for Sensor Products, Inc. (currently based in Madison, NJ), he lives in Milford, NJ.
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