V2 Surveys Smokers on CVS’s Exit from Tobacco

More than half of smokers say the decision has made it harder to buy cigarettes.

February 19, 2016

MIAMI, Fla. – A new survey by e-cigarette and vaporizer company V2 examines the impact of CVS’s decision to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products. 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 survey found that 33% disagreed with the decision by the drugstore chain to stop selling tobacco products, while 24% agreed. The majority group (43%), however, said they were “neutral” about the change.

For those who disagreed, the majority said they felt cigarettes were being unfairly targeted by CVS. For those who agreed with the decision, 60% said CVS “sells health products” and cigarettes just “didn’t make sense” as part of the product mix, while 36% agreed because they thought the move “could help to reduce cigarette smoking” more broadly. 

More than half of respondents (52%) said the move by CVS 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.” 

When asked to identify where they are buying cigarettes now that CVS has stopped selling tobacco products, “gas stations” were the No. 1 choice. Walmart and Walgreens tied at second, while third was a two-way tie between 7-Eleven and a local store (not part of a chain). The top-five was rounded out with dollar stores and Rite Aid.

“Gas stations, in our survey, cover 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.”

CVS still offers tobacco and smoking alternatives; however, stores 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. 20% were undecided, and 28% said no.

“According to the data, most smokers want these devices available to them as options in CVS stores and other retailers,” Kustin added.

The study polled 300 cigarette smokers across the United States from February 8–12, 2016; all respondents had previously purchased cigarettes from a CVS location.