CVS Health To Agencies: Thank You For Not (Promoting) Smoking

CVS Health, the seventh-largest company in the nation in terms of revenue ($54.4 billion in 2018), has pledged not to work with advertising or public relations agencies that work with tobacco and e-cigarette companies, following its decision to remove tobacco from its stores five years ago. 

Brilliant move CVS. I wonder how any agency executive can live with themselves today hawking tobacco knowing what a toxic and deadly product it is.

CVS is the first major corporate brand to join the Quit Big Tobacco campaign created by Vital Strategies, an international public health organization headquartered in New York. Those who join the campaign pledge not to work with or market tobacco products.

“This is what corporate leadership looks like,” said José Luis Castro, President-CEO of Vital Strategies. “CVS Health’s pledge builds on their 2014 forward-thinking decision to stop selling tobacco products in their stores, thus depriving the tobacco industry from the creative talent it needs to target youth in the United States and around the world.



"It’s a game changer. We hope this bold decision will encourage other health-minded companies to follow suit. We congratulate CVS Health and thank them for taking the Quit Big Tobacco pledge.”

It makes you wonder when other retail giants like Walgreens and Walmart are going to see the light and stop selling cancer sticks and related products. Walgreens in particular, because they profess to be in the health field. And it’s also under pressure from the Food & Drug Administration for selling tobacco products to minors.

We need more firms like CVS and Dick’s Sporting Goods to step up and be part of the solution to some of the nation’s biggest problems. Dick’s, as you might have read last month, halted sales of all guns and ammo in over a hundred of its stores, following its decision last year to ban assault weapon sales in all stores following the Parkland, Fla. school shooting.

And we need agencies to step up also and do the right thing, despite whatever short-term hit they may take to the bottom line.

“Tobacco companies claim that all their lying and deception is behind them, but they’re reaching out to their old advertising friends under new pretenses,” said Alex Bogusky, Cofounder-Chief Creative Officer of advertising agency Crispin Porter Bogusky, who was quoted in the Vital Strategies release about the CVS decision.

“At CPB, we know agency reputation and new business suffers when a client’s goal is selling addiction. CVS Health’s pledge to Quit Big Tobacco is a strong signal to our industry that cutting ties with the tobacco industry isn’t just good practice- it’s good business,” Bogusky added.

CPB is among the more than 200 agencies and brands that have joined Vital Strategies’ Quit Big Tobacco initiative so far. The full list is here.  

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