Experts: CVS Move Could Dent Smoking Rates

Inconvenience helps deter smokers, studies have shown

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 6, 2014 4:07 AM CST

(Newser) – With hundreds of thousands of retailers in the US selling cigarettes, will CVS' landmark decision to end tobacco sales have any effect on smoking rates? Experts say it could have a major impact, both by putting more pressure on the tobacco industry and making it a little harder for people to get their smokes, USA Today finds. Studies have shown that having to travel just two extra blocks can make the difference between buying and not buying cigarettes, and tobacco firms have long sought to boost "impulse" buys by having their products near cash registers, says Otis Brawley, the American Cancer Society's chief medical officer. "If the cigarettes are right in front of you, if they're convenient, you are more likely to buy them," he says. "This is especially true of people who are struggling to quit."

But other pharmacy chains like Walgreens might not hurry to follow CVS' lead, the Los Angeles Times reports. The chain, which argues that banning tobacco sales would send smokers to outlets like liquor stores "that don't carry smoking cessation products and don't have pharmacists available for advice on quitting," said yesterday that it will "continue to evaluate the choice of products our customers want" while continuing to provide those smoking cessation goods. The Consumerist sees the statement as "actually trying to shill for some sort of smoking cessation program ... because there is much more money to be gained by selling people both the product they are addicted to and a program that may help them quit."

A discarded cigarette sits in front of a CVS pharmacy in Kingston, Pa,
A discarded cigarette sits in front of a CVS pharmacy in Kingston, Pa,   (AP Photo/Citizens' Voice, Andrew Krech)
CVS says the sales ban will cost it up to $2 billion a year in sales.
CVS says the sales ban will cost it up to $2 billion a year in sales.   (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
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It is a big deal—one of those death knell events the tobacco industry has feared for some time. - Thomas Glynn,
American Cancer Society

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