CVS stopped selling cigarettes in the fall of 2014, but how has the decision impacted smokers?
V2, a brand of electronic cigarette and vaporizer products, released the results of a commissioned study examining the response to and impact of CVS’s decision to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products.
The survey focused on several aspects of the CVS decision, 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.
33% Disagreed With The Decision
Some 33% of those surveyed said that they disagreed with CVS’s choice to end tobacco sales, while a quarter (24%) agreed. The majority, however, were on the fence, with 43% saying that they’re “neutral.”
For those that disagreed, the overwhelming majority did so because they felt cigarettes were being unfairly targeted by CVS. 83% said “CVS sells other products —like alcohol and candy—that are bad for you and cigarettes shouldn’t be singled out.” Only 14% said that they disagreed because they bought most of their cigarettes at CVS prior to the decision.
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. 36% agreed because they thought the move “could help to reduce cigarette smoking” more broadly.
52% Say It’s Now Harder to Buy Cigarettes
Some 52% said that CVS’s decision to stop selling cigarettes has impacted their ability to purchase cigarettes regularly. 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.”
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.
Gas Station C-Stores Getting CVS’s Sales
When asked to identify where they are buying cigarettes now that CVS has stopped selling tobacco products, “gas stations” were the No. 1 choice at 39%.
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 top-five was rounded out with “dollar stores” (7%) and Rite Aid (3%).
“Gas stations, in our survey, covers a wide range of c-store retailers and brick-and-mortar brands,” said Adam Kustin, vice president of 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.”
44% Say Reduced Access Is Good
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. Meanwhile, 33% were neutral.
Though they no longer sell tobacco products, CVS still offers tobacco and smoking alternatives in-store nationwide. However, they do not currently sell electronic cigarettes as part of that offering. When asked if CVS should offer electronic cigarettes and vaporizers as a like-for-like alternative to traditional combustible cigarettes, the majority (51%) said that they should. Another 20% were undecided, and 28% said “no.”
“Electronic cigarettes are a real alternative to traditional combustible cigarettes,” added Kustin. “According to the data, most smokers want these devices available to them as options in CVS stores and other retailers.”