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CVS makes strides in cutting tobacco use

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Removal of tobacco products from stores has ripple effect, study finds

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS/pharmacy’s removal of tobacco products from its stores is showing its impact a year later.

A study by the CVS Health Research Institute revealed a reduction in cigarette purchases over the past year, CVS Health said Thursday. Evaluating cigarette pack purchases at drug, food, big-box, dollar, convenience and gas station retailers in the eight months after CVS ceased tobacco sales, the research 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 with states with no CVS/pharmacy stores.

CVS smoking cessation store displayWhat’s more, during the same time frame, the average smoker in those states bought five fewer cigarette packs and, overall, about 95 million fewer packs were sold, CVS said.

One year ago, we stopped selling tobacco products because it conflicted with our purpose of helping people on their path to better 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,” Troy Brennan, chief medical officer of CVS Health, said in a statement.

Also upon the first anniversary of ending tobacco sales at CVS/pharmacy, the study showed that the drug chain’s smoking cessation efforts are taking hold. The research found a 4% increase in nicotine patch purchases in the states with a CVS/pharmacy market share of 15% of more during the period after the end of tobacco sales, indicating a positive effect on attempts to quit smoking, according to CVS.

“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 noted. “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.”

The efforts of CVS pharmacists and MinuteClinic nurse practitioners to help customers quit smoking also are showing progress, CVS added. Since Sept. 3, 2014, the average number of MinuteClinic “Start to Stop” smoking cessation visits conducted per month nearly doubled, the company reported, adding that its pharmacists counseled over 260,000 patients about smoking cessation and filled nearly 600,000 nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) prescriptions. CVS said also distributed millions of smoking cessation informational brochures and hundreds of thousands of “Last Pack” toolkits and educated more than 1 million people via its Online Cessation Hub on CVS.com.

In the year since removing tobacco products, CVS Health also has pledged more than $1 million in corporate grants to tobacco cessation and prevention programs. The company and its CVS Health Foundation, too, have built on partnerships with organizations fighting tobacco use and supporting people living with its health consequences, including Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Stand Up To Cancer, and American Lung Association’s LUNGFORCE.

To that end, CVS on Thursday announced a new joint initiative of CVS Health, its foundation and children’s publisher and media company Scholastic to launch a school-based tobacco prevention program, which will teach children about the health consequences of tobacco use.

CVS said the program will reach nearly 3 million children in grades three, four and five when it begins this fall, and a second component offered in some pilot markets for young adults in grades six and seven is slated to be introduced in early 2016. The initiative will include classroom resources for teachers and students plus take-home components to spur parent-child discussions about smoking. The middle school component will include a student engagement program, with the chance to receive incentives such as scholarships and youth-focused community training.

“Over the last year, CVS Health has created partnerships with community organizations across the country that are dedicated to helping people quit smoking and communicating the importance of never starting tobacco use,” stated Eileen Howard Boone, senior vice president of corporate social responsibility and philanthropy at CVS Health. “Today, we are proud to mark our one-year anniversary by building on our commitment to be a meaningful part of the effort to make the next generation tobacco-free.

“By partnering with an expert in education to launch this new program,” noted Boone, who’s also CVS Health Foundation president, “we will reach millions of kids across the country with critical tobacco-prevention education.”


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