New Study Finds Cigarettes Are Cheaper in Pharmacies, Undermining Health; Drug Stores Should Follow CVS’s Lead and End Tobacco Sales

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Aug. 24 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new study published today in the American Journal of Public Health finds that cigarettes – both Marlboro and discount brands – are cheaper in pharmacies than in other types of stores.

This study provides another compelling reason for pharmacies to follow the lead of CVS Health and end the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products. There is a fundamental conflict between pharmacies’ stated commitment to promoting health and the sale of products that kill nearly half a million Americans each year. It’s even worse when pharmacies sell cigarettes at cheap prices that entice young people and undermine smokers’ efforts to quit. As the researchers note, this study indicates that ending the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies could eliminate an important source of cheap cigarettes.

We again call on other retailers, especially those with pharmacies such as Walmart and Walgreens, to join CVS Health in ending tobacco sales. Their continuing failure to do so should prompt state and local governments across the country to prohibit tobacco sales in pharmacies, as localities in several states have done. This study also underscores the need to increase the price of tobacco products through significant tobacco tax increases, prohibitions on coupons and other price discounts, and minimum price laws.

Especially during this back-to-school shopping season, we also urge parents and other consumers concerned about health to patronize retailers that don’t sell tobacco products. To help shoppers find tobacco-free retailers near them, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has created a website – www.ShopTobaccoFree.org –with an interactive map that pinpoints the locations of tobacco-free retailers across the country.

The new study also found that Newport cigarettes are cheaper in neighborhoods with a higher proportion of African-American residents. This adds to a wealth of research demonstrating the tobacco industry’s targeting of African Americans with menthol brands. National data shows that nearly two-thirds of African-American youth smokers (ages 12-17) and nearly three quarters of African-American young adult smokers (ages 18-25) prefer Newport cigarettes. A comprehensive 2013 FDA report concluded that menthol cigarettes lead to 1) increased smoking initiation among youth and young adults; 2) greater addiction; and 3) decreased success in quitting smoking.

As the evidence mounts not only of the additional health risks posed by menthol cigarettes, but also of the targeted marketing to African-American communities, the FDA should move as quickly as possible to ban menthol cigarettes in the United States. The FDA has more than sufficient scientific evidence to act.

 

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