CVS’s Teen Vaping Fears: CEO Daily

September 3, 2019, 9:54 AM UTC

Good morning.

Five years ago today, CVS pulled all tobacco products from it shelves, shutting off a $2 billion a year business, but creating a path for the company’s transformation into a health care provider (and ultimately, its acquisition of Aetna.) The move led to a measurable decline in cigarette sales and smoking. It was a sterling example of a company pursuing purpose at the expense of short-term profit, leading to benefits for both the business and society.

This morning, CVS is launching a new $50 million campaign to help stop teen vaping, and create the first tobacco-free generation. The rise of teen vaping “is something I am personally very worried about,” CEO Larry Merlo told me Friday. He cited a study showing “78% of school age kids who are vaping are likely to begin smoking before they finish high school.”

Are we backsliding on smoking? “In some respects, I do see us going backward,” Merlo replied. The company plans to boost smoking cessation programs both though CVS Caremark and through Aetna managed care plans.

The tobacco decision five years ago “was foundational to our growth as a health care company,” Merlo said. “It served as a point of validation that we are a very credible health care provider.” He said it also had a big impact on the firm’s culture, engaging employees across the company. “It brought our purpose to life in a very meaningful way.” A lesson there for others?

I’m headed to Yuxi, China today, where the Fortune Global Sustainability Forum starts Wednesday. Among those attending: Dow CEO Jim Fitterling, Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown, Esquel Chair Marjorie Yang, Energy Innovation CEO Hal Harvey, AeroFarms CEO Dave Rosenberg, and environmentalist extraordinaire Bill McDonough. We’ll be reporting from there the rest of the week.

News below.

Alan Murray


Brexit Crunch

Today, British lawmakers will introduce legislation that would effectively block a no-deal Brexit at the end of October, forcing Boris Johnson's government to ask the EU for another extension until the end of January if no deal has been agreed by mid-October. Johnson has warned that, if the vote passes, Conservatives who voted for the blockage will be booted out of the party, and a general election will be held on October 14, to block the blocking legislation. Sterling fell on that threat, though two-thirds of lawmakers would need to back the call for a fresh election for it to occur. BBC

Hurricane Dorian

Hurricane Dorian is heading for Florida later today, after hovering over the northwestern Bahamas and killing five people there. It has however now been downgraded to a Category 3 storm. CBS News

Trade War

A Wall Street Journal survey shows economic confidence among small U.S. businesses is at its lowest level in almost seven years, thanks to the trade war. A rising proportion of respondents—two-fifths—expect the economy to worsen over the next year. Keep an eye out for purchasing manager survey figures today, to see how the U.S. industrial sector is being affected. WSJ

Huawei Resilience

Huawei may have been blocked from 5G rollouts in Japan and Australia, but it's still managed to score over 50 such contracts around the world. That's according to new figures from the company, which put it ahead of rivals Nokia and Ericsson. CNBC



Arnaud Deboeuf, a senior executive in the Renault-Nissan alliance, has quit while blaming Renault chief Thierry Bolloré for his departure. Bolloré, who is seen by some as divisive, allegedly told Deboeuf that no-one wanted to work with him anymore. Deboeuf will now go work at rival PSA. Financial Times

Hong Kong

The Inditex-owned fashion brand Zara has said on social media that it supports China's sovereignty over Hong Kong. Some had suggested that its Monday closure of four stores in the city was an expression of support for a student strike. Reuters

Recession Nature

When the next recession hits, it could feel very different from the last one, writes Fortune's Erik Sherman, who has some handy tips for workers: look at cutting expenses now, take on extra work if possible, and shop around for a better-paying job while the labor market is still strong. Fortune

Delivery Merger

Eminence Capital, which has a 4.4% stake in Just Eat, will oppose its merger with due to alleged undervaluation. The combined entity would lead the food-delivery markets in Canada, Germany, the U.K. and the Netherlands. Reuters

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer. Find previous editions here, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters here.

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