Strengthening Our Commitment to Help End Tobacco Use

Special from US News

FIVE YEARS AGO, WE decided to stop selling cigarettes and tobacco products in all CVS Pharmacy locations. It was the first step toward building an innovative health care company driven by a purpose — helping people on their path to better health. Since then, CVS Health and the CVS Health Foundation announced a multi-year $50 million Be The First initiative to help create the first tobacco-free generation.

On the anniversary of our original decision, we are expanding the program to tackle the growing problem of youth vaping with additional investments and new partners. We're also bringing our smoking cessation expertise to areas across our businesses, with an expanded focus in 2020 on increasing effective smoking cessation approaches in Medicaid plans, including in Aetna Better Health managed Medicaid plans and together with CVS Caremark clients interested in creating or expanding smoking cessation efforts for their Medicaid members.

Demonstrable Positive Impact on Tobacco Use

Our decision to stop selling tobacco led to a meaningful and measurable decline in cigarette smoking. Within 12 months, in states where CVS Pharmacy had at least 15% of the market share, consumers had purchased 100 million fewer packs of cigarettes, according to research we published in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) in 2017. Households that purchased cigarettes exclusively at CVS Pharmacy were 38% more likely to stop buying cigarettes, and those consumers who bought more than three packs of cigarettes a month were more than twice as likely to stop buying them.

These findings clearly indicate the positive public health impact of our decision. It is also significant because even though cigarette smoking has been on the decline, many consumers still struggle with nicotine use. In a recent CVS Health research study, 39% of consumers said they, or a family member or friend, have struggled with nicotine use — such as cigarettes or vaping — in the past five years. Of consumers aged 35 to 50, nearly half — 45%— said they struggle with nicotine use, and 40% of millennials said they did as well.

Cigarette smoking continues to be responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the U.S. The total economic cost of smoking is more than $300 billion a year. Clearly, more needs to be done to help our country quit tobacco. If other key stakeholders join us in making the decision to exit tobacco, we have the opportunity to make an even more profound public health impact.

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