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CVS Claim They Have Benefitted from Their Anti-Smoking Campaign

If you watch Hulu Plus, or any other broadcast media where the advertisement ran last year, you have certainly seen the “We Wish” ad campaign by CVS (second largest pharmacy chain in the United States). In the ad, CVS presents the “wish” for better health.  Their answer to that better health initiative is to stop selling cigarettes and all tobacco products in their pharmacies.

The visualization of the happy, healthy people shown in the ad help to reiterate CVS’s opinion that this is attainable, in part, by removing cigarette smoking and tobacco usage, from one’s life.  They also let the public know that this removal will allow them to focus on partnerships that will help the public.

This ad ran in 2014 and the partnership portion of the ad is more subtle than the announcement of the ban on cigarettes and tobacco products.  It is also secondary to the message of better health that is sure be the outcome of this decision, according to CVS. However, 2015 brings with it, news of the affiliations and opportunities that CVS referenced in the “We Wish” campaign last year.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGSI32pXIQ8&w=560&h=315]

In The News This Week

This week, Forbes covered the story about the partnerships that CVS has finalized.  There are hospitals, health systems, and some partnerships and affiliates that have not yet been revealed to the public.

Two of the affiliations were announced in a CVS Press Release at the end of January 2015. These two affiliations were Louisiana Regional Health Systems, as well as the Kansas Regional Health Systems.

According to the press release, CVS has almost 9000 locations where health advice may be obtained (including retail locations and MinuteClinics). Their hope, according to Troyen A. Brennan, MD, Chief Medical Officer, CVS Health, is that CVS can “look forward to working with these leading regional health systems to develop collaborative programs that improve patient outcomes, lower costs and help people on their path to better health.”

CVS Continues with Their Anti-Smoking Campaign and Is Succeeding!

Huffington Post shared some insight on the losses that were predicted to affect CVS at the time of the announcement. They also illustrated how the loss for an entire year of cigarette and tobacco sales was comparable to about six days of profit at CVS. When it is viewed that way, it does not appear to be such a huge loss for CVS, especially compared to the benefits that CVS is now realizing, even this week.

When one takes a step back from the issue of the tobacco, and looks at the health industry in general, what CVS is doing makes a bit more sense and seems to fit into the playing field of the 21st century approach to services, according to the Huffington Post article, “Why We’re Picking Walmart And CVS Over Doctors’ Offices.” According to that article, it is not all that unusual that CVS would opt for MinuteClinics and want to increase their associations and affiliations with hospital systems and partners, in exchange for the removal of a few tobacco products from their stores.

Where Did This CVS Initiative Start? Back to 2014

Wondering where this all started? Get the scoop from CVS themselves, in this YouTube video announcement of the decision to be the first pharmacy to take an anti-tobacco position and stop selling cigarettes and tobacco products:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3RVxda74os&w=560&h=315]

Other Pharmacies Did Not Follow CVS’ Example

As one would generally predict (which is easy to say now, five months later), it would not be expected that all other pharmacy competitors would pick up the same flag as CVS. The Washington Post reported that the good vibes increased after the CVS announcement, but the sales did not increase, which is technically consistent with the reported potential loss of almost $2 billion. According to the same article, instead of alarm at lost sales, CVS was pushing forward in pressuring their competitors and “rivals” to also stop the sales of tobacco products.

The competitors decided to make their own decisions and stick with their status quo of selling tobacco and retaining their normal sales (possibly increasing their sales as they would pick up the CVS customers that were not able to buy their cigarettes at their normal location). According to CBS News those rivals are not planning to follow CVS’s example.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWvF7xpjE4w&t=2m54s&w=560&h=315]

In the News this Week

On CBS This Morning (February 8, 2015), Dr. John LaPook and Dr. Holly Phillips gave their commentary on the CVS campaign (2:55). As Dr. Phillips highlighted, the CVS CEO, Larry Merlo stated that it was hypocritical of CVS, as a company and as a store, to proclaim that they would be focusing on more and more healthy initiatives and more opportunities for greater health for the community, and still sell tobacco in the store. Dr. Phillips agreed, highlighting that this would appear to be a hypocritical statement (if CVS continued to sell tobacco products) and re-iterating what Merlo had stated.

Public Support from Politicians and Celebrities

When CVS first announced their intention to ban cigarette sales in their store, President Obama announced his support of their decision, according to USA Today. President Obama was not the only one who applauded CVS on their action. Celebrities like Ellen publicly announced their support, as well. The USA article continued by announcing public opinion related to the concern about other products, besides tobacco, that may affect the community’s health. However, CVS’s solution appears to be that alliance with the health systems and their approach to overall health and consultation that is specific to the individual.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CcSaEEuVMvc&w=560&h=315]

This change is a bigger change than only the cigarettes. Clearly the loss of the profit that was derived from the cigarette and tobacco sales is not enough to warrant a retreat in the initiative and the opportunities that CVS is claiming exists for them. CVS has moved beyond what would be a hypocritical stance and found that that outweighs any detrimental aspects. This week and this month, CVS is realizing the opportunities they announced last year, as the world watches how this new approach to health care will affect the culture and the view on future health care.

About the author

Deborah Anderson

Deborah Anderson wears many hats and her addiction to acquiring knowledge in many areas is demonstrated through her vast experience. From professional training as a sound engineer at what is now the Los Angeles Film School, to graduating summa cum laude in software architecture (and project management) from Capella University, she likes to share through writing.