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‘Be The First’ aligns profit, philanthropic goals


CVS Health rocked the industry in 2014 when it removed cigarettes and tobacco from its pharmacy shelves in an effort to promote health and reduce chronic illnesses associated with tobacco-use. Now, the retailer is taking yet another stance against tobacco-use with a hefty $50 million initiative to help deliver the nation’s first tobacco-free generation.

(To download Special Report: Double Down on Health, click here.)

Supported and funded by CVS Health and the CVS Health Foundation, the “Be The First” campaign launched earlier this year. Its focus is on youth and young adults who use tobacco or who are at risk of becoming regular tobacco users, as well as the country’s 3 million elementary school children who, without early tobacco education, may become future tobacco users, the company stated. The campaign also is focused on continuing to support community-based cessation programs for adult smokers trying to quit and on children who are exposed to tobacco-use and second-hand smoke in the home and other public venues that permit smoking.

It’s a tall order but, over the next five years, CVS Health is aiming to contribute to a 3% decline in the national youth smoking rate, help with a 10% decline in the number of new youth smokers and double the number of tobacco-free college and university campuses.

Eileen Howard-Boone of CVS Health“Reducing youth tobacco-use is an important public health priority that requires more public-private partnerships and greater collaboration,” Eileen Howard Boone, SVP corporate social responsibility and philanthropy at CVS Health and president of the CVS Health Foundation, told Drug Store News. “We’ve partnered with a number of the nation’s leading anti-tobacco and youth organizations, including the American Cancer Society to accelerate and expand the number of 100% tobacco-free college campuses, Scholastic to provide comprehensive tobacco education in elementary and middle schools, and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to educate young people about the dangers of tobacco.”

CVS Health also has convened a national advisory group made up of tobacco-control experts and thought leaders to help guide the initiative. Members of the advisory group include leadership from such organizations as, the American Cancer Society, Quit Doc Foundation, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Aetna and the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at the University of California San Francisco.

Like its bold move to ban tobacco sales, the “Be The First” campaign has earned the pharmacy retailer accolades.

“CVS is creating a stronger health-and-wellness branding image versus other large drug stores, who are also being pressured to stop selling tobacco,” Deborah Weinswig, managing director of global think tank Fung Global Retail & Technology, told DSN.

The initiative comes as little surprise and further demonstrates the company’s subscription to “doing well by doing good,” a mission that Howard Boone has helped personally lead for the company in recent years. A June article in The Christian Science Monitor referred to Howard Boone as “the embodiment of the alignment between the company’s profit-making and philanthropic goals,” adding “that kind of alignment has increasingly become a priority for businesses, as more customers expect socially responsible practices.”

“Over the years, as our business model has evolved, so has our ability to affect change in our local communities,” Howard Boone explained.

Boone Howard sees this new era of corporate social responsibility as the future for all successful brands and companies. “As more companies begin to integrate social responsibility into their brand, customer experience and product innovation will also improve across all sectors,” she said.

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