Edelman is advising client CVS Caremark amid its Feb. 5 announcement that the pharmacy chain will stop selling tobacco products at its 7,600-plus stores in the U.S.
"Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose," said president and CEO Larry Merlo, who said a decrease in the percentage of smokers has stalled over the past decade.
Merlo said the company could lose up to $2B in revenue with the move, but said it has identified "incremental opportunities" expected offset the profit hit. It will also kick off a national smoking cessation program, he said in a widely covered announcement.
Edelman CEO Richard Edelman, an anti-smoking advocate who offers a financial incentive for employees to quit smoking, said he is proud of the firm's involvement with the client.
"To Mr. Merlo, I say bravo to a CEO willing to recognize a basic inconsistency and having the confidence to fix it," said Edelman.
Edelman handles CVS Caremark's corporate PR account. Carolyn Castel is VP of corporate communications for CVS Caremark and Eileen Howard Boone serves as senior VP, CSR and philanthropy.
After the CVS announcement, rival Walgreens said it has been "evaluating this product category for some time to balance the choices our customers expect from us, with their ongoing health needs."
Drug stores represent about four percent of U.S. cigarette sales.