CVS Dropping Tobacco Sales Doubles Smoking Cessation Counseling
Meghan Ross, Associate Editor
CVS pharmacists have seen increased interest in smoking cessation counseling since their stores stopped selling tobacco a year ago.
In fact, the number of monthly visits for smoking cessation education has doubled since CVS Health pledged to take down tobacco products from its shelves last September. Pharmacists counseled more than 260,000 patients and filled nearly 600,000 nicotine replacement therapy prescriptions in the first year of the MinuteClinic Start to Stop Program.
Pharmacists also helped distribute smoking cessation brochures and “Last Pack” toolkits, which offer encouragement for smokers looking to quit. Additionally, pharmacists reached more than 1 million individuals on the Online Cessation Hub on CVS.com.
In states where CVS had more than 15% market share, there was a 1% decrease in cigarette pack sales in 8 months following the removal of tobacco products, the CVS Health Research Institute found. This translated to 5 fewer cigarette packs per smoker and 95 million fewer packs overall, according to CVS.
While cigarette sales declined, nicotine patch sales climbed. According to CVS, there were 5 more nicotine patch packages sold for every 1000 smokers.
Using this information, the retail pharmacy giant claimed that its policy change may have led to more smoking cessation attempts.
“One year ago, we stopped selling tobacco products because it conflicted with our purpose of helping people on their path to better health,” Troyen A. Brennan, MD, MPH, chief medical officer of CVS Health, said in a press release. “[W]e 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.”
Since last September, CVS has also pledged more than $1 million in grants to promote tobacco cessation and prevent more people from taking up smoking. It has also fostered partnerships with organizations such as Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Stand Up To Cancer, and the American Lung Association’s LUNGFORCE.