Written by Alisha Klug, Media by Jack Wang
On September 3 2014, CVS stopped selling tobacco products, and replaced the cigarettes and chewing tobacco with nicotine gum and other products that are advertised to help people quit smoking. They also changed their name from CVS Caremark to CVS Health, though they do not plan on changing the signs on all of the store buildings so customers may not notice the name change at first.
According to the CVS Health website, “The change of our corporate name to CVS Health… reflects our broader health care commitment and our expertise in driving the innovations needed to shape the future of health.” This “broader health care commitment” is shown not only in the company’s exile to tobacco products, but also in its plan to operate about fifteen hundred Minute Clinics in the U.S. by 2017. These Minute Clinics are places designed to be like small walk in clinics that take less time than going to the emergency room. Patients can get small treatments like ear aches diagnosed and treated at these clinics, as well as get their children immunized at these clinics.
Larry Merlo, President and CEO of CVS Health states in a video posted on the CVS website: “By eliminating the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products in our store, we can make a difference in the health of all Americans.” In addition to removing tobacco products from CVS stores, the company also started a smoking-cessation campaign, which is focused on helping people quit.
Naturally, there are some doubts as to the motivation CVS has for making these changes. Some say that it is simply a ploy to get more money. Cigarette sales have been dropping considerably in the U.S. within the past thirty years, and it is still dropping. Cigarettes are far less popular than they used to be. Furthermore, there has been a focus on health care in the Obama Administration. This will potentially cause more people to get health care, enabling the populous to use the Minute Clinics more and more. Many argue that CVS is simply getting rid of a product that is losing popularity and promoting a service that is gaining popularity as a business strategy.
Arguably, the CEOs of CVS Health do have personal experiences of family member death from health issues caused by tobacco. This may have been a factor in their decision to make these changes. It may be that it is a mixture of both heartfelt and business reasons that CVS got rid of tobacco products in their stores.