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New Data: CVS' No Smokes Decision Decreased Tobacco Sales in Chains Across the US

Image credit: CVS Health

One year after drugstore chain CVS Health stopped selling cigarettes, the company released new data that shows the decision has influenced tobacco sales across many types of retailers and announced a new school-based tobacco-prevention program.

Smoking infographic
Click to enlarge. | Image credit: CVS Health

“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, M.D., M.P.H., Chief Medical Officer at 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, conducted by the CVS Health Research Institute, evaluated cigarette pack purchases at drug, food, big box, dollar, convenience and gas station retailers in the eight months after CVS stopped selling tobacco products. The findings revealed that approximately 95 million fewer cigarette packs were sold in the eight months following the company’s action.

The impact is roughly equivalent to a 1 percent reduction in cigarette pack sales, or 0.14 fewer packs per smoker per month over the eight month period. It was also found that nicotine patch sales increased by 4 percent in the first month after CVS’s halt of tobacco sales, but returned to pre-removal sales over time.

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

While CVS’ decision was not likely the sole influencing factor of the decrease in tobacco sales, the study did account for variances by state and trend data from the two years before the decision came into effect. The study also analyzed whether CVS’ market share had an effect; twenty six states were analyzed in total. To compare the decision’s impact in states with CVS/pharmacy to those without, thirteen states where CVS/pharmacy held a market share of 15 percent or more were considered “intervention” states, and three with no CVS/pharmacy stores were control group states.

CVS also announced today that they are partnering with global children’s publishing company Scholastic through the CVS Health Foundation to introduce a new, school-based program aimed at preventing youth smoking and teaching children about the health consequences of tobacco use.

The program will reach nearly three million children in grades three, four and five when it begins this fall, with a second component to be introduced for older children in early 2016.


Hannah Furlong is one of Sustainable Brands's Contributing Writers, based in Canada. She is researching the circular economy as a Master's student in Sustainability Management at the University of Waterloo and holds a Bachelor's in Environment and Business Co-op. Hannah… [Read more about Hannah Furlong]


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