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Majority of former CVS Health cigarette buyers applaud no-sell decision


CVS Health's decision to stop selling cigarettes is having its intended impact - 52% of those consumers who used to buy their cigarettes from CVS say it is now harder to buy cigarettes altogether, according to a survey commissioned by V2, a manufacturer of electronic cigarette and vaporizer products.

Out of that group, 73% called the impact manageable, stating that “buying cigarettes is now harder but I have other options” and 27% said it made buying them “much harder.”

Asked to rate the reduced cigarette access from the CVS decision as either “good” or “bad,” 44% called it good, saying that, despite them being harder to buy, “I want to quit smoking and this helps.” Only 23% said that it was a “bad” decision, citing inconvenience.

On-third of those surveyed said that they disagreed with CVS’s choice to end tobacco sales, while 24% agreed.

For those that agreed with the decision, 60% said CVS “sells health products” and cigarettes just “didn’t make sense” as part of the product mix. And as many as 36% agreed because they thought the move “could help to reduce cigarette smoking” more broadly.

For those that disagreed, 14% said that they disagreed because they bought most of their cigarettes at CVS prior to the decision. Nearly half (48%) said that CVS’s decision had little impact on their cigarette purchases and that they did not purchase cigarettes frequently enough from CVS to be affected.

When asked to identify where they are buying cigarettes now that CVS has stopped selling tobacco products, “gas stations” were the number one choice at 39%.

“Gas stations, in our survey, covers a wide range of c-store retailers and brick-and-mortar brands,” said Adam Kustin, VP marketing at V2. “It’s no secret that most cigarettes are sold in this channel. With CVS halting their sales, c-stores are getting additional customers. Another factor to consider is that gas prices across the country are at a 10-year low, meaning stations are seeing more business and transaction volume, with cigarette sales getting a boost secondarily.”

Walmart and Walgreens were tied for second place, with 20% each, while third-place was a two-way tie between 7-Eleven and “a local store (not part of a chain)” at 8%.

The survey focused on several aspects of the CVS decision, which was implemented in the fall of 2014, including smokers’ reactions, how their lives have changed since and substitute points of purchase. The study polled 300 cigarette smokers across the U.S. between Feb. 8-12, 2016.

All respondents had previously purchased cigarettes from a CVS location.

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