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CVS traces impact of momentous decision on tobacco

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WOONSOCKET, R.I. — CVS Health marked the one-year anniversary of its decision to stop selling tobacco products in its stores by releasing data about the impact of its efforts to help Americans stop ­smoking.

The company says that its messages about the importance of quitting smoking are reaching millions of Americans. And for customers who take those messages to heart and decide to quit, CVS Health has developed a smoking cessation program that includes personalized counseling and smoking cessation products.

“One year ago, we knew that removing cigarettes and tobacco products from our stores would not be enough on its own to make a meaningful difference in the lives of our customers and patients who smoke,” said CVS Health’s chief medical officer Dr. Troyen Brennan. “We believe our combined efforts of eliminating pharmacy-associated access to tobacco products and a devoted smoking cessation program through our channels will help our patients on their path to better health.”

The smoking cessation program launched on September 3, 2014, and from that date through December 2014, CVS says that its pharmacists counseled more than 67,000 patients who were filling a first prescription for a smoking cessation drug or prescription nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). Thousands more smokers seeking advice about over-the-counter NRT products were counseled by CVS pharmacists as well.

Prescriptions for smoking cessation medications have increased by 63% on a monthly basis during the same time period, and MinuteClinic visits for smoking cessation counseling were up 61% compared to the prior eight months.

Sales of O-T-C NRT products in CVS/pharmacy stores increased 21% in September through December, compared to the previous four months. The drug chain reported that its customers also picked up 2.3 million tobacco cessation brochures and thousands of “Last Pack” encouragement tool kits.

The chain’s smoking cessation hub at cvs.com received nearly 1 million visits through December; about 25,000 smokers completed nicotine dependency quizzes on the site and more than 2,500 of them followed up with calls to a smoking quit line (844 265-4321) operated by the American Cancer Society.

“The hard work of quitting smoking is worth it because there are many health benefits,” said CVS/pharmacy president Helena Foulkes. “Approximately seven in 10 smokers say they want to quit and about half attempt to quit each year. But challenges still exist, including the fact that fewer than half of smokers report being advised to stop smoking. Through our continuing efforts we hope to change that.”

The CVS Health Foundation, meanwhile, has committed $5 million to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.


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