US pharmacy chain tobacco ban shows wider smoking cessation benefit


quit smoking: hands hold broken cigarette in front of blue sky

US pharmacy chain CVS/pharmacy has marked the first anniversary of it ending its tobacco sales by releasing new data showing a measurable reduction in cigarette purchases over the last year.

The company also renewed its commitment to creating a tobacco-free generation through a joint initiative between CVS Health, its Foundation and Scholastic, to launch a school-based tobacco prevention program.

“One year ago, we stopped selling tobacco products because it conflicted with our purpose of helping people on their path to better health,” says Troyen A. Brennan, Chief Medical Officer, 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 US drug, food, big box, dollar, convenience and gas station retailers in the eight months after CVS/pharmacy stopped selling tobacco products.

The study 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 to states with no CVS/pharmacy stores.

Over the same eight-month period, the average smoker in these states purchased five fewer cigarette packs and, in total, approximately 95 million fewer packs were sold.

The CVS Health Research Institute study also shows a 4% increase in nicotine patch purchases in the states with a CVS/pharmacy market share of 15% of more, in the period immediately following the end of tobacco sales. This indicates that there was also a positive effect on attempts to quit smoking.

“We know that more than two-thirds of smokers want to quit – and that half of smokers try to quit each year,” Brennan says.

“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.

“This new data demonstrates that CVS Health’s decision to stop selling tobacco did indeed have a real public health impact.”

The impact of CVS Health’s tobacco cessation efforts can also be measured in the reach of its pharmacists and nurse practitioners, who have worked to support customers’ efforts to quit smoking.

Since September 3, 2014, the average number of MinuteClinic “Start to Stop” smoking cessation visits conducted per month nearly doubled.

CVS pharmacists counseled more than 260,000 patients about smoking cessation and filled nearly 600,000 nicotine replacement therapy prescriptions.

The company also distributed millions of smoking cessation informational brochures and hundreds of thousands of “Last Pack” toolkits, and educated more than one million people via its Online Cessation Hub on CVS.com.

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