It’s been a year since CVS Pharmacy, the nation’s second largest chain of drugstores, stopped selling tobacco, and the company claims the decision has translated to a 1% percent reduction in total cigarette sales in 13 states.
According to the report, which was released in September, the 1% decrease is the “equivalent of 0.14 fewer packs per smoker per month. During the eight months following the tobacco sales removal, the average smoker purchased a total of five fewer cigarette packs.”
Tobacco use is the single largest most preventable cause of cancer, and is responsible for more than 30% of all cancer-related deaths. Each year, smoking causes one of every five deaths in the United States.
The company also reported that its sales of nicotine patches increased 4% in the month after it halted the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products.
CVS’s bold decision to stop selling tobacco was praised by MD Anderson leadership and other national health care leaders when the company announced its plan in February of 2014. At the time, MD Anderson President, Ronald DePinho, M.D., urged other pharmacies, retail outlets and grocery stores to join CVS in removing cigarettes from their shelves.
“Decisions such as this will help save lives, reduce heartbreak for countless American families and save health care dollars,” DePinho said.
MD Anderson leaders responded to last month’s news of the decline in cigarette sales:
“Tobacco kills 480,000 Americans each year, including 40,000 innocents exposed to second hand smoke. Still more suffer from diminished income, productivity and alienation. Last year, retail giant CVS took the bold step of taking tobacco off store shelves and ending cigarette sales. More American retailers need to do the right thing and follow in CVS’s footsteps. Here’s why:
In Thursday’s story, it was reported that total cigarette sales dropped by 1% in the 13 states where CVS has a sizable market share. While 1% may not seem like much, that’s a significant change for an industry that sold nearly 264 billion cigarettes in 2014. Economically, smoking-related illness costs more than $300 billion a year, including nearly $170 billion in direct medical care for adults and $156 billion in lost productivity. A drop of 1% in smoking rates would result in a positive economic impact of $30 billion, even after lost taxes from tobacco sales. This is the size of the government’s research budget focused on the cure of all diseases.
While the decline is likely linked to many factors, including CVS's actions, anti-smoking campaigns and tax increases, the reality is organizations that place Americans’ health above profits can help reduce tobacco use nationwide and save families from the pain and suffering caused by diseases such as cancer. Bravo, CVS!”
— Ronald DePinho, M.D., president of MD Anderson
“More American retailers need to do the right thing and join CVS in ending cigarette sales. Tobacco is a dangerous product that can lead to suffering and reduced lifespan for both smokers and their families.
This week CVS said its decision to take tobacco off store shelves in 2014 was followed by a 1% drop in total cigarette sales in 13 states where the pharmacy chain operates outlets. Approximately 480,000 Americans die each year due to smoking-related diseases. While many factors, including the drug store chain's decision, likely led to the drop, 1% is not insignificant and should be considered encouraging news.
Please join me in applauding one retailer's bold move that will hopefully be followed by others.”
— Ernest Hawk, vice president and head of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences at MD Anderson