Two-thirds of American adults believe pharmacies should not be allowed to sell tobacco, while 14 percent strongly oppose such a policy, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Researchers also found nearly half of cigarette smokers, as well as nearly half of tobacco users who don’t smoke cigarettes, support such a policy.
The role of pharmacies
“People look to pharmacies to improve and support their health,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Selling tobacco products, the leading preventable cause of death and disease, goes against the important and growing role pharmacies play in Americans’ well-being.”
A number of communities across the U.S. do not permit the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies. As of January 2016, 134 municipalities in California and Massachusetts have enacted tobacco-free pharmacy laws. Preliminary data suggest that eliminating tobacco product sales in pharmacies does not hurt business. In 2014, CVS Health became the first national retail pharmacy chain to stop selling tobacco products. After implementing the new policy, CVS Health reported that annual revenues increased in 2014 and 2015.
While pharmacies can provide evidence-based cessation support and FDA-approved medications, the selling and advertising of tobacco products might diminish the impact of these cessation resources by triggering cravings and stimulating impulse purchases that can hinder smokers’ attempts to quit.
De-normalizing tobacco use
“Tobacco-free pharmacy policies could help reduce access to tobacco products and exposure to tobacco product advertising, as well as de-normalize tobacco use,” said Corinne Graffunder, Dr.P.H., director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. “By eliminating tobacco sales, pharmacies can also help increase awareness of the health consequences of smoking and better support their customers’ management of tobacco-related diseases.”
Those who believe pharmacies should not sell tobacco include:
- 62 percent of men and 70 percent of women
- 65 percent of non-Hispanic blacks, 66 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 67 percent of Hispanics
- 67 percent of adults ages 18 to 24, 64 percent of adults ages 25 to 44, 65 percent of adults ages 45 to 64, and 72 percent of adults 65 and older
- 47 percent of current cigarette smokers, 66 percent of former cigarette smokers, and 72 percent of never cigarette smokers
- 48 percent of current non-cigarette tobacco users, 63 percent of former non-cigarette tobacco users, 71 percent of never non-cigarette tobacco users
The data came from Porter Novelli’s Summer Styles, a nationally representative web-based survey of 4,269 U.S. adults age 18 and older. They were asked, “Do you favor or oppose banning the sale of all tobacco products in retail pharmacy stores?” More than 66 percent said they were strongly or somewhat in favor.
Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the U.S., responsible for 480,000 deaths a year. Tobacco use is an established concern among pharmacists, whose professional obligation is to promote the health of their patients. More than 16 million Americans currently live with a smoking-related illness, and cigarette smoking can complicate chronic disease management.
If you'd like to quit
Smokers can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit http://www.smokefree.gov for help to quit.