Walgreens isn't ready to quit cigarette sales yet

June 3, 2019Wall Street Journal (04/01/19) Al-Muslim, Aisha

(On the corner of happy AND healthy?)

Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO Stefano Pessina says that although WBA is testing tobacco-free stores in the United States, the community pharmacy chain has no plans to quit selling cigarettes entirely. "The safety of our patients is very important, but we also have to do what our customers are requiring us to do," says Pessina. "We see that when we don't sell tobacco, we have a lot of [negative] reactions." The issue came up at the company's annual shareholder meeting in January and again in February, when FDA criticized the company for selling tobacco products to minors. A group of U.S. senators recently sent the Walgreens CEO and other community pharmacies letters urging them to stop selling tobacco products in stores. Pessina notes Walgreens is trying to help smokers quit by also making smoking cessation products widely available. Employees are encouraged to direct customers seeking cigarettes to cessation products. The pharmacy chain has also reduced the visibility of tobacco products in some stores. Walgreens does not sell tobacco products at a test store in Deerfield, IL, near its headquarters, as well as 17 stores in Gainesville, FL, as part of a 12- to 18-month pilot program it started last year. The company also does not sell cigarettes in Massachusetts, New York City, and San Francisco, which have banned pharmacies from selling them.

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