CVS Health Corp. has announced that its decision to stop selling tobacco products has led to a 1% decrease in cigarette sales in areas where the chain has many pharmacies.
The decision cost CVS Health financially. The company said that general merchandise revenue at CVS Health pharmacies open at least a year fell by 7.8% in the second quarter of 2015 from the second quarter of 2014.
But the decision is making a difference to smokers. Since the decision, nicotine patch purchases rose 4% from a year earlier in the 26 states where CVS Health had a market share of 15% or greater. The average number of visits to the clinics that were set up for stop-smoking counseling has nearly doubled.
The company estimated that it held 1.5% to 2% of the tobacco market in the United States before it stopped selling tobacco products; about $2 billion in annual sales.
The 1% reduction in sales of cigarette packs occurred in 13 of the states where the company's share of the market was at least 15%. The company said the decline was the equivalent of the average smoker in those states buying five fewer packs of cigarettes, or a total of 95 million fewer packs.
To come up with these statistics, CVS Health said it compared cigarette pack purchases in markets where it had a presence with those where it did not. Researchers looked at cigarette sales in drug, food, big box, dollar, convenience, and gas station retailers.
CVS's Chief Medical Officer Troyen Brennan said many people thought that smokers would go elsewhere to buy cigarettes once the chain stopped selling them. "The data shows that our decision to not sell cigarettes did have an impact," he said to Reuters Health.
CVS has 7,800 retail pharmacies and is the second-largest manager of prescription-drug benefits in the United States.