While CVS has decided that its stores will no longer sell tobacco products in order to promote health and wellness, Penn students and staff will most likely be unaffected by the change.
Over 70 percent of Penn students won’t be affected by this shift because they have “never used” cigarettes, while only 10.6 percent of students said they smoked within the last 30 days, according to the National College Health Assessment survey.
But even for those who do smoke, the change — which went into effect in early September — will be minimal.
“I can understand that at Penn’s campus, not everyone is affected because there’s a Wawa every two blocks,” College senior Michael Griego, a frequent smoker, said.
At first the change was “really nice” for Griego because CVS sold the cigarettes at a discount in order to get them off the shelves more quickly. But with CVS no longer selling cigarettes, it is only a minor inconvenience for Griego, as he will just go to Wawa instead.
School of Dental Medicine student Iman Y., also a frequent smoker, changed his routine as a result of CVS’ new policy. Instead of buying cigarettes at CVS, he now makes his purchases from the Fresh Grocer and at a small newspaper stand by the dental school.
While CVS’ decision has changed the cigarette economy on campus, local businesses are so far unsure whether the new policy has impacted their own cigarette sales.
A customer service employee at Fresh Grocer said that she noticed an increase in cigarette sales after the display moved to a more visible area behind and above the customer service counter. However, the display was moved a couple months ago, and the employee was unaware of CVS’ tobacco ban and unsure that it was a contributing factor to the sales increase. At the Wawa at 36th and Chestnut streets, a manager said that she has not noticed dramatic changes in tobacco sales since CVS stopped selling cigarettes and that cigarette sales have always been very high.
The 7-Eleven at 34th and Market streets is attracting former CVS customers with larger tobacco advertisements, Student Health Service Health Educator Ashlee Halbritter said. Halbritter noticed that the signs were even larger than those for soda. However, she said that CVS’ ban sets a good precedent, as it is a “big win for public health.”
Removing tobacco products from CVS’ shelves eliminates the choice of buying cigarettes for customers in the store, Halbritter said. In that way, it’s similar to removing cookies from your house when you’re on a diet: If there are no cookies at home, you won’t be tempted to eat them, she said.
It turns the “healthy choice” into the “easy choice,” Halbritter said.
“By eliminating cigarettes and tobacco products from sale in our stores, we can make a difference in the health of all Americans,” CVS CEO Larry Merlo said in a press release.
The space behind the CVS counter is now empty of its usual array of cigarette cartons except for “The Last Pack,” which is offered for free. The Last Pack looks like a pack of cigarettes, but instead contains coupons and information to help smokers quit. CVS pharmacists also provide advice on how to stop smoking.
However, even though Griego has thought about quitting smoking multiple times, he said that CVS’ policy did not have a psychological effect on him.
“I know for me it’s not like when I smoke that I don’t realize that it’s unhealthy. I’m very conscious that it’s unhealthy,” Griego said.
Iman shared the same perspective and said that while he hopes to quit smoking, CVS’ ban on tobacco products does not make a difference on his habit. However, he said that CVS’ new policy was setting an appropriate standard. Griego also supported the ban due to the irony of a pharmaceutical company selling cigarettes in addition to health products.
“It kind of makes sense to be honest,” Iman said. “At the end of the day, CVS is known to be a drug store. Smoking doesn’t really fit there.”
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