The decision to stop tobacco sales at all of its drugstores a year ago caused people to buy 95 million fewer packs of cigarettes in 13 states, CVS Health says in a new study out Thursday.
The new study compared total sales of tobacco products at all types of stores in the 13 states where CVS has more than 15% of market share with sales in states that don't have any CVS stores.
The study, conducted by CVS' Health Research Institute, evaluated cigarette pack purchases at drug, food, mass merchandise, dollar, convenience and gas station stores in the eight months after CVS stopped selling tobacco products. Over the same period, the average smoker in these states purchased five fewer cigarette packs. The 95 million fewer packs sold, CVS said, was a 1% decrease in the number of packs sold.
During 2014, nearly 264 billion cigarettes were sold in the United States, a decrease from approximately 273 billion sold in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The CVS study also showed a 4% increase in nicotine patch purchases in the 13 states in the period immediately following the end of tobacco sales, which the company says shows there also was "a positive effect on attempts to quit smoking."
CVS and its foundation also announced Thursday that it is funding a new school-based tobacco-prevention curriculum through the textbook company Scholastic.
The effort might have been able to influence Troyen Brennan, a physician who is CVS Health's chief medical officer. In an interview, Brennan said he smoked for a few years while in his teens.
Brennan says he expects the study results should address critics who said CVS' move was "not going to make a difference overall."
But at least one critic says CVS is making a questionable leap by taking credit.
"CVS only sold a very small percentage of the nation's cigarettes to start with, and financial analysts have said the impact of CVS' move wouldn't have a major impact on smoking rates," says Jeff Stier, a senior fellow at the free market-oriented National Center for Public Policy Research. "But the bold claim that its decision to stop selling cigarettes actually got a significant number of smokers to just buy the mostly ineffective nicotine patches and quit smoking only illustrates how little the company knows about the difficulty of quitting."
Stier's group receives 1.4% of its funding from the tobacco and e-cigarette industry.
“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."
The new data, Brennan says, show CVS' decision "did indeed have a real public health impact."
Junk food often is an impulse as well. CVS spokeswoman Carolyn Castel says the company also is placing healthier foods-- such as yogurt and fresh fruit-- in key locations in the front of the store.
Source: The Tennessean