Study: CVS’s decision to stop selling cigarettes improved nation’s health

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Health’s 2014 decision to stomp out cigarette sales at all CVS Pharmacy locations has had a substantial impact on the number of cigarette purchases at all retail settings, with an even greater impact on those who bought cigarettes at CVS locations.

According to newly published research from the CVS Health Research Institute that was published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health, CVS’s decision to stop selling cigarettes at its stores reduced cigarette purchases across all retail settings, with those who purchased cigarettes exclusively at CVS Pharmacy 38% more likely stop buying cigarettes, and those who purchased three or more packs per month were more than twice as likely to stop buying cigarettes altogether.

The study assessed the impact of CVS Health's discontinuation of tobacco sales by analyzing data from a nationally representative survey of consumers' cigarette purchasing behavior at drug, food, big box, dollar, convenience and gas station retailers prior to and one year following the company's decision.

"When we removed tobacco from our shelves, a significant number of our customers simply stopped buying — and hopefully smoking — cigarettes altogether instead of just altering their cigarette purchasing habits," said Troyen A. Brennan, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of CVS Health and an author of the study. "This research proves that our decision had a powerful public health impact by disrupting access to cigarettes and helping more of our customers on their path to better health."

Following CVS Health's decision to exit tobacco in 2014, the company has extended its commitment to helping people lead tobacco-free lives through increased smoking cessation resources and a focus on youth tobacco use and prevention. In 2016, CVS Health announced Be The First, a five-year, $50 million initiative to help deliver the first tobacco-free generation. With support and funding through CVS Health and the CVS Health Foundation, Be The First supports comprehensive education, advocacy, tobacco control and healthy behavior programming delivered in concert with a group of national partner organizations.

"CVS Health's decision to end tobacco sales has had a substantial and measurable impact on improving our nation's health," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "These newly published results make it increasingly untenable for responsible retailers — especially those that provide health care services — to continue selling tobacco products. We also urge parents and other consumers concerned about health to patronize retailers that don't sell tobacco products, such as those on our website, www.ShopTobaccoFree.org."

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable morbidity and mortality in the United States, accounting for more than 480,000 deaths each year, $170 billion in medical costs and $156 billion in lost productivity, stated CVS. "Tobacco use, especially among our youth, is one of the most pressing public health issues that we face today," said Eileen Howard Boone, Senior Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropy at CVS Health, and President of the CVS Health Foundation. "While smoking rates among children and adults have declined over the past decade, approximately 36.5 million adults still smoke and 3,200 people under age 18 smoke their first cigarette every day. Reducing tobacco use continues to be a public health priority, which we are committed to addressing."

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