Walking away from $2 billion in sales seems like a pretty bold risk for any company, even one that posted $123 billion in revenue in 2012 (and is likely to at least match that in 2013 when it reports results this week). But that is just what CVS Caremark Corp. has done by making the decision to stop selling tobacco products in its retail locations by Oct. 1.
Company President and CEO Larry Merlo is taking a gamble that shareholders won’t punish the stock price (and all the options that he and his executive team have earned) for this principled stand, but his reasoning is sound and refreshing in its principled justification.
Given the company’s increasing role in the health care industry, through both its MinuteClinics and pharmacies – the company employs 26,000 pharmacists and nurse practitioners – Mr. Merlo said in announcing the decision that “tobacco products have no place in a setting where health care is delivered.”
Given the societal costs of smoking, from health care treatments to reduced productivity, it is worth recognizing so obvious a convergence of the public good and corporate mission. Bravo! •