CVS: Our decision to end tobacco sales reduced cigarette sales

September 8, 2015

CVS Health is crediting its decision to remove tobacco products from its shelves a year ago with a reduction in the numbers of cigarettes sold in some states.

CVS Health is crediting its decision to remove tobacco products from its shelves a year ago with a reduction in the numbers of cigarettes sold in some states.

Why do drugstores sell products that kill?

CVS recently released a

that compared total sales of tobacco products at stores in the 13 states where CVS has more than a 15% market share with sales in states without CVS stores.

The study, conducted by CVS’ Health Research Institute, found that 95 million fewer packs of cigarettes were sold in those states where CVS has a significant market share.

“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, MD, MPH, chief medical officer, 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.”

The study analyzed cigarette purchases at drug, food, mass merchandise, dollar, convenience, and gas station stores for the eight-month period after CVS stopped selling tobacco products.

In addition to the decrease in cigarette sales, the study also identified an increase in purchases of nicotine patches in those 13 states where CVS had a significant market share.

 

“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,” Brennan said. “And so we reasoned that removing a convenient location to buy cigarettes could decrease overall tobacco use. This new data demonstrates that CVS Health’s decision to stop selling tobacco did indeed have a real public health impact.” 

Not everyone is convinced. Jeff Stier, a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, questioned CVS’ connection between cigarette sales and people who kicked their habit. “The bold claim that its decision to stop selling cigarettes actually got a significant number of smokers to just buy the mostly ineffective nicotine patches and quit smoking only illustrates how little the company knows about the difficulty of quitting,” Stier told USA Today.