CVS Quits Smoking, Gets Defensive About It

16601_10152165436598116_438158652_nThis morning’s biggest CSR news comes via the country’s largest pharmacy chain. As announced in this press release, CVS Caremark will stop selling all tobacco products at its more than 6,000 U.S. locations on October 1st, 2014.

The change comes in the wake of a January surgeon general’s report, which arrived exactly 50 years after the first and tied smoking even more directly to diseases like diabetes, colon cancer and erectile dysfunction (eek). The company spun it as a way of aligning its services and interests, which include public health—nice copy on the tagline, BTW. Here’s the key quote from CEO Larry J. Merlo:

 “Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS/pharmacy is the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health. Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”

This is a very smart move for several reasons.

  • It earns the company LOTS of media mentions
  • It inspires praise from various non-profit health organizations
  • It pressures the chain’s competitors to follow suit
  • It gives CVS the opportunity to allow “smokers’ rights” proponents to discredit their own arguments

We’re particularly interested in the company’s social media response.

There’s been quite a bit of back-and-forth on the Facebook post this morning:

Post by CVS.

The brand has also been very active on Twitter, using the #cvsquits tag to strongly defend its decision and share those praises we mentioned above.

That last one was a little awkward coming from a smoker, but you get the point.

Of course, if adults can drink alcohol then they should be able to smoke, and the millions of Americans who do it every day will simply have to go somewhere else to buy. But this was an obvious move by CVS that also makes for a very enticing pitch. We can almost hear journalists typing out their trend stories right now…

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.