Pharmacy's pledge to stop tobacco sales "magnificent", says Richard Edelman

Top four US pharmacy chain CVS Caremark's decision to stop selling tobacco products has been described by Edelman chief executive Richard Edelman as "one of the most significant accomplishments in the history" of his agency.

The agency is working with the pharmacy chain as it begins the process of removing all tobacco-related products from its shelves by 1 October.

The pharmacy brand hired Edelman for corporate PR support after a review in September 2012.

While Edelman has not met with CVS CEO Larry Merlo, he said he talked with the pharmacy's head of PR about 18 months ago and "had a really good chat" about halting the company's tobacco sales.

Edelman, who offers staffers monetary rewards for kicking the habit, referred to himself as "hugely anti-smoking" and praised CVS' leadership for the decision.

"The courage of the CEO to say, ‘I'm sorry, but we have a bigger responsibly here, and yeah, it's $2 billion in sales, but we're going to more than make it up,' I just thought that was magnificent," he added.

In addition to taking all cigarettes and tobacco products off its shelves, making it the first national pharmacy chain to do so, CVS will continue to not carry electronic cigarettes.

Representatives from CVS did not respond to requests for comment.

Kym White, global chair of Edelman's health practice, said in a statement: "We are very proud of being a part of this landmark announcement and will let our client's bold move and the news coverage speak for itself."

CVS Caremark's announcement, made yesterday, was widely covered in mainstream media outlets.

President Barack Obama praised CVS in a statement that said the company "sets a powerful example" and will help reduce tobacco-related deaths and disease. First lady Michelle Obama tweeted a positive message to the company, as well.

CVS also swapped out its profile picture on Facebook and Twitter for an anti-smoking logo and used the hashtag #CVSquits on Twitter.

Bloomberg Businessweek has predicted that the decision will allow CVS to focus more on its prescription business, which has more growth potential with Baby Boomers than cigarette sales. The anti-smoking effort will also allow the company to connect with consumers through a positive message and stand out from other pharmacies, it said.

Other commentators surmised that while CVS is garnering positive coverage and establishing its brand values, its business will suffer because customers often buy secondary items while picking up a pack of cigarettes.

This story was first published by PRWeek US.

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