What Did CVS’ Tobacco Pullout Mean?

New study shows impact of drug chain’s departure from category

WOONSOCKET, R.I. -- The windfall many convenience retailers thought they received when drug-store giant CVS stopped selling tobacco may not have been as big promised, with a new study showing a significant number of shoppers deciding to quit.

The study, published last month in the American Journal of Public Health, Washington, D.C., showed that 38% of people who shopped for tobacco products exclusively at CVS stores were more likely to stop buying cigarettes after the pullout. Those who purchased three or more packs per month were more than twice as likely to stop buying cigarettes altogether, the study said.

“When we removed tobacco from our shelves, a significant number of our customers simply stopped buying and hopefully smoking cigarettes altogether instead of just altering their cigarette purchasing habits,” said Troyen Brennan, chief medical officer for Woonsocket, R.I.-based CVS Health and an author of the study. “This research proves that our decision had a powerful public-health impact by disrupting access to cigarettes and helping more of our customers on their path to better health.”

The study, which involved drug, food, big-box, dollar, convenience and gas-station retailers, used point-of-sale (POS) data covering six-month intervals before and after CVS discontinued tobacco sales. Thirteen “intervention” states where CVS had a market share of at least 15% were compared with three control states that had no CVS stores.

The report concluded: “After CVS’ tobacco removal, household- and population-level cigarette purchasing declined significantly. Private retailers can play a meaningful role in restricting access to tobacco.”

“Tobacco use, especially among our youth, is one of the most pressing public-health issues that we face today,” said Eileen Boone, senior vice president of corporate social responsibility and philanthropy for CVS Health and president of the CVS Health Foundation. “While smoking rates among children and adults have declined over the past decade, approximately 36.5 million adults still smoke and 3,200 people under age 18 smoke their first cigarette every day. Reducing tobacco use continues to be a public-health priority, which we are committed to addressing.”

Want breaking news at your fingertips?

Get today’s need-to-know convenience industry intelligence. Sign up to receive texts from CSP on news and insights that matter to your brand.


More from our partners