CVS: One Year After Tobacco Ban, How It’s Helping America Get Healthier


CVS tobacco ban one year anniversary

It was a bold, some said foolhardy, move when CVS stopped selling tobacco products a year ago. Now  America’s second largest pharmacy chain (after Walgreens) has released research that the retailer claims shows that its decision spurred Americans to buy far fewer cigarettes this year, which the American Heart Association applauded:

While quitting smoking hurt the retailer’s bottom line, with overall sales dropping 7.8 percent in the second quarter of this year compared with Q2 of 2014, it also saw a four percent increase in sales of nicotine patches in the 26 states where it maintains a 15 percent or greater market share, Reuters reports.

CVS one year tobacco sales ban data


CVS quits tobaccoAccording to its research released today, CVS says in 13 of those states, there was an overall market drop of one percent in sales of cigarette packs. That may seem like a small drop in the bucket that is America’s nicotine addiction, it adds up to a total of 95 million fewer packs of cigarettes sold, or five fewer packs per smoker.

“The data shows that our decision to not sell cigarettes did have an impact,” CVS Chief Medical Officer Troyen Brennan stated. “One percent may not sound like much but it’s a very substantial amount when you consider the mortality and morbidity associated with tobacco,” Brennan told TIME.

The findings were produced by the CVS Research Institute, which studied cigarette sales in drug stores, gas stations and convenience and dollar stores in the eight months after CVS stopped selling tobacco in September and after it launched its #OneGoodReason campaign to encourage smokers to butt out.

“My one criticism is that they were not the only thing happening” during that time, commented Stanton Glantz, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education to TIME.

“If you look across these states, there were tax increases for cigarettes going on, some of the states had anti-smoking programs, there was less smoking in movies. CVS doesn’t account for those” other factors Glantz added, giving the CVS first year report card a grade of “B.”

CVS anti tobacco graphic Sept. 2015

As The Seattle Times points out, the ban on tobacco sales by CVS allows the retailer to promote itself as a company devoted to health and wellness and remind consumers that it may be the second biggest pharmacy in the US but it’s also America’s “biggest operator of health clinics, the largest dispenser of prescription drugs and the second-largest pharmacy-benefits manager.” It also offers an online smoking cessation hub on its website.

In conjunction with the study results, CVS announced a partnership with Scholastic to announce an in-school program aimed at preventing youth smoking and teaching kids about the health consequences of tobacco use.

The news comes the same week that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the nation’s smoking rate has fallen to 15 percent in the first quarter of this year from 16.8 percent in the same period last year, Forbes notes—a statistic that CVS can’t lay claim to, but is certainly good news for the general health of the US population if not Big Tobacco.