(Reuters Health) – – The retail pharmacy company CVS Health helped its customers quit smoking by pulling cigarettes off the shelves two years ago, a new study suggests.
Smokers who purchased cigarettes exclusively at CVS stores were 38 percent less likely to buy tobacco after the national chain stopped selling cigarettes, the study shows.
In addition, cigarette sales dropped 1 percent – or by 95 million packs – in 13 states in the eight months after CVS left the tobacco market in September 2014, according to the report in the American Journal of Public Health.
“It shows that responsible behavior by a pharmacy has public health benefits for the whole population,” Stanton Glantz said in a phone interview. He directs the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, and was not involved with the study.
The results provide “very strong evidence” that removing tobacco from CVS’ more than 7,800 stores reduced smoking, Glantz said. “It was a big enough effect that you could see it in the population level, which is very impressive,” he said.
The findings heartened Dr. Troyen Brennan, CVS Health’s chief medical officer and one of the study’s authors.
“We think that this research definitely shows that if pharmacies didn’t sell cigarettes, fewer people would smoke, more people would live longer, and fewer people would die,” he said in a phone interview.
Brennan and a team of CVS researchers analyzed data from a nationally representative survey of consumers’ cigarette purchases at drug, food, big box, dollar, convenience and gas station retailers prior to and one year following the company’s exit from the cigarette market.
While they found that shoppers who purchased cigarettes exclusively from CVS were 38 percent more likely to stop buying cigarettes altogether, they could not conclude that those customers kicked the habit. The data shows they did not purchase…