Selling tobacco in pharmacies sends a mixed message to consumers about the dangers of tobacco products, makes it harder for smokers to quit, and is a conflict of interest for pharmacists.

16_269605_Tobacco_pharmacies_infographicDespite the known health risks of tobacco, pharmacies represent nearly 5% of cigarette sales, and while cigarette sales declined nationally by 17% between 2005-2009, cigarette sales increased in pharmacies by 23% during this time.[1]  In addition, a 2016 study showed that cigarettes in pharmacies were actually cheaper than at other stores.[2] However, research shows that pharmacists[3,4,5]and the overall public[6,7] overwhelmingly support removing this deadly product from pharmacies. A 2014 survey showed two-thirds of Americans would support a ban on tobacco sales in pharmacies, including nearly half of smokers.[8]

In 2008, San Francisco became the first city in the U.S. to ban tobacco sales in pharmacies.  In Massachusetts over 160 cities and towns have enacted similar bans as of January 2018, as well as 14 municipalities in California and Rock County, Minnesota.  In February 2017, Rockland County, NY became the first community in the state of New York to ban tobacco sales in pharmacies, followed by New York City in August 2017, and Albany County in May 2018.

Bans on tobacco sales in pharmacies reduce retailer density. Massachusetts and California cities that banned the sale of tobacco in pharmacies saw a three times greater reduction in retailer density compared to cities that did not.[9A study examining the relative effectiveness of policies in reducing the number and density of tobacco retailers in North Carolina found that a ban on tobacco sales in pharmacies would reduce retailers in the state by over 1,000 and reduce density by 13.9%.[10

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Case Study:

Learn more about Massachusetts’ success in ‘Regulating Pharmacy Tobacco Sales: Massachusetts,’ the second case study in the Innovative Point-of-Sale Policies series from the Center for Public Health Systems Science at Washington University in St. Louis.


In February 2014, CVS announced its decision to stop selling tobacco products, becoming the first retail pharmacy chain in the U.S. to take such action. Following the chain’s removal of tobacco products from its stores, total cigarette purchases in states where CVS holds significant market share declined by 1%, and smokers who had previously purchased their cigarettes exclusively at CVS were up to twice as likely to stop buying cigarettes entirely.[11] Some smaller chains and many independent retailers, such as the ones from Vermont featured in the video below, have also chosen to stop selling tobacco products. In fact, according to Counter Balance, 98% of independent pharmacies in Vermont are now tobacco-free. Learn why:

Getting Started

CounterTobacco_PharmaciesActionGuide_coverCounterTobacco.Org developed the Tobacco Free Pharmacies Action Guide in collaboration with tobacco control stakeholders across the country. Prohibiting the sale of tobacco in pharmacies can be an important piece of a community’s overall point-of-sale tobacco control plan. The Tobacco Free Pharmacies Action Guide provides recommendations and tools to help tobacco control advocates build support and develop a policy to prohibit the sale of tobacco products in pharmacies.





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