CVS at midnight on Tuesday changed its name to CVS Health and stopped selling tobacco products in all 7,700 of its stores, fulfilling a promise the company made earlier this year.
In February, CVS became the first major pharmacy to announce that it would stop selling tobacco products in its stores by Oct. 1. In addition, CVS said it planned to launch an in-store and online anti-smoking campaign.
In addition, CVS announced Wednesday that the company is changing its name to CVS Health, as part of its efforts to rebrand itself as a company that provides basic health services. However, CVS store signs will not be changed to reflect the rebranding.
According to the New York Times, the company operates 900 walk-in medical clinics, known as Minute Clinics. CVS has partnered with more than 40 health systems to help run the clinics and is on track to open 150 more clinics this year.
CVS CEO Larry Merlo said in an interview that the company is "at the forefront of what we all see as a changing health care landscape." He added, "While there's never a right time to walk away from $2 billion in revenue, this was the right time. Eliminating this obstacle will allow our company to grow over the long term."
CVS officials said they have received mostly positive feedback to their decision to stop selling the products, noting that most smokers desire to quit the habit. Helena Folkes, president of CVS's pharmacy division, added, "From a business perspective," CVS "continues to be very strong."
Forrester Research health care analyst Skip Snow said, "CVS is really trying very hard to position themselves as the winner in that marketplace." He added, "If they can be perceived as a place to go to receive health care, and buy health care products, as opposed to the place to go to buy a bottle of whiskey or get your film developed, then they can capture more of the retail medicine dollars."
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Merchant Medicine CEO Tom Charland said the move "sends a very big signal to the rest of the health care community that you are in the health care business," adding, "I do think that it's going to open up many possibilities in all of the partnerships that [CVS] is trying to create across the country" (Abrams, New York Times, 9/3; Ziobro, Wall Street Journal, 9/3; AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 9/2; Millman, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 9/3).
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