January 24, 2020
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CVS’ decision to stop cigarette sales likely led to more quit attempts

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In 2014, CVS Health said it would stop selling tobacco products, suggesting that such sales contradicted the company’s goal of promoting health.

“This action may not lead many people to stop smoking,” Troyen A. Brennan, MD, MPH, CVS Caremark chief medical officer, and Steven A. Schroeder, MD, director of the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at University of California, San Francisco, said at the time. “But if other retailers follow this lead, tobacco products will be much more difficult to obtain.”

Now, new evidence shows the impact of the company’s decision on smokers’ habits.

Fatma Romeh M. Ali, PhD, from the CDC's Office of Smoking and Health, and colleagues linked CVS retail location data with statistics from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. They found that during the 2-year period after CVS stopped tobacco sales, smokers living in counties with more than 3.5 CVS stores per 100,000 people had a 2.21% increase in their quit attempt rates vs. smokers living in counties without CVS stores. However, daily smoking rates were not impacted.

“Jurisdiction-wide policies eliminating tobacco sales in all pharmacies may have a greater impact on cessation behaviors,” Ali and colleagues wrote. “Further evaluation research on the relationship between individual smoking behaviors and sales restrictions on tobacco products in pharmacies could help inform tobacco control policy, planning and practice.” – by Janel Miller

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.