WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Health’s removal of tobacco products from its drug stores over two years ago continues to impact retail cigarette sales.
A new study from the CVS Health Research Institute, published online Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health, found that dropping tobacco from all CVS Pharmacy stores reduced the number of cigarette purchases across all retail settings, with an even greater impact on those who bought cigarettes at CVS locations.
The study gauged the effect of CVS’ cessation of tobacco sales by analyzing data from a nationally representative survey of consumer cigarette purchasing behavior at drug, food, big-box, dollar, convenience and gas station retailers, before and one year after the company’s decision. Though CVS’ removal of tobacco cut cigarette purchases across all retail venues, people who bought cigarettes exclusively at CVS Pharmacy were 38% more likely to stop buying cigarettes, according to the company. Those who purchased three or more packs per month were more than twice as likely to stop buying cigarettes altogether.
“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,” CVS Health chief medical officer Troyen Brennan, an author of the study, said in a statement. “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.”
After the decision to exit tobacco in 2014, CVS ramped up efforts to help people tobacco-free lives by expanding smoking cessation resources and focusing on youth tobacco use and prevention. Last year, the company announced “Be The First,” a five-year, $50 million initiative to help deliver the first tobacco-free generation. With support and funding via CVS Health and the CVS Health Foundation, Be The First supports wide-ranging education, advocacy, tobacco control and healthy behavior programming delivered in tandem with national partner organizations.
“Tobacco use, especially among our youth, is one of the most pressing public health issues that we face today,” stated 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.”