WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Health has marked the first anniversary of its ending tobacco sales at CVS/pharmacy by releasing new data that it said shows a measurable reduction in cigarette purchases over the past year.
“One year ago, we stopped selling tobacco products because it conflicted with our purpose of helping people on their path to better health,” said Troyen A. Brennan, M.D., M.P.H., chief medical officer at CVS Health. “Today, we are excited to release new data demonstrating the positive impact our decision has had on public health overall as shown by a measurable decrease in the number of cigarette purchases across all retailers.”
Conducted by the CVS Health Research Institute, the study evaluated cigarette pack purchases at drug, food, big-box, dollar, convenience-store and gas-station retailers in the eight months after CVS/pharmacy stopped selling tobacco products.
The study found an additional 1% reduction in cigarette pack sales in states where CVS/pharmacy had a 15% or greater share of the retail pharmacy market, compared to states with no CVS/pharmacy stores. Over the same eight-month period, the average smoker in these states purchased five fewer cigarette packs and, in total, retailers old approximately 95 million fewer packs, it said.
The study also showed a 4% increase in nicotine patch purchases in the states with a CVS/pharmacy market share of 15% of more, in the period immediately following the end of tobacco sales. This indicates that there was also a positive effect on attempts to quit smoking, it said.
“We know that more than two-thirds of smokers want to quit, and that half of smokers try to quit each year. We also know that cigarette purchases are often spontaneous. And so we reasoned that removing a convenient location to buy cigarettes could decrease overall tobacco use,” Brennan said. “This new data demonstrates that CVS Health’s decision to stop selling tobacco did indeed have a real public health impact.”
So far, none of CVS’ rivals, including Wal-Mart, Rite Aid, Walgreens Boots Alliance or convenience-store chains, have followed or disclosed plans to stop selling cigarettes, said a Forbes report. Walgreens has said it is instead pushing harder on smoking cessation programs for its customers. Of the estimated 250,000 retail outlets selling tobacco products, Walgreens has said just 4% are pharmacies. “Our goal is to help get the U.S. smoking rate, which has leveled off at around 18% of the adult population for a decade, moving lower again,” Walgreens said in a statement.
Woonsocket, R.I.-based CVS Health operates 7,800 retail pharmacies.