Wow—the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has named Walgreens America’s #1 worst offender of illegal tobacco sales to youth, with more than 1,800 violations. Luring kids (and adults) into Big Tobacco’s web of nicotine addiction may not be what you expected to find at a healthcare facility that claims to be “At the Corner of Happy and Healthy.”
Walgreens wants to be regulated as a healthcare facility and profit from healthcare services. But at the same time, it still seeks to maximize tobacco sales and profits. In contrast, competitor CVS went 100% tobacco-free in 2014 by ending the sale of all tobacco products, including electronic vaping devices, to much success and fanfare.
So how did Walgreens respond to this latest tobacco controversy? Did it decide this would be the perfect time to get out of the tobacco business like CVS did? Nope, it plans to keep on selling tobacco products.
The number of U.S. high school students using tobacco products increased 38 percent between 2017–2018. Years of tobacco use prevention success is “vaping away” with the rise of products like JUUL (owned in part by tobacco giant Altria). A new generation is becoming addicted to nicotine thanks to these products, and the behavior of tobacco retailers like Walgreens puts its own profit ahead of public health. See more about Big Tobacco and JUUL.
And the Dirty Ashtray Award Goes To…Walgreens!
What can we do?
Communities have every right to expect that local health care service providers like Walgreens should not also be contributing to the burden of tobacco-related illness and health costs.
More than 193 U.S. cities and Massachusetts now have laws in place requiring all pharmacies and often other health care facilities to be tobacco free. Here is a link to ANR’s model ordinance Prohibiting the Sale of Tobacco Products by Health Care Institutions that cities can consider adopting. For more information, contact ANR.
See our 2014 Op-Ed, “Walgreen: At the intersection of healthy, happy — and hypocritical”
And this just in, Senators also advocate for Walgreens to stop selling tobacco.