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Consumer, labor, health groups call on Walgreens to end tobacco sales

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February 12, 2014

Contact: Ben Klein, National Consumers League, (202) 835-3323, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Matt Painter, Change to Win, (646) 705-3128, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League, Center for Science in the Public Interest and Change to Win Retail Initiatives are turning up the heat on Walgreens over selling cigarettes, following the decision by CVS Caremark to discontinue tobacco sales.  In a letter sent today to the company’s CEO Greg Wasson, the coalition of consumer, labor and public health organizations are calling the nation’s largest drugstore chain to stop selling and advertising tobacco products.

 “[R]emoving tobacco products from your stores would be consistent with Walgreen’s mission statement to help consumers ‘get, stay and live well,’” the letter reads.  “We also believe that Walgreen’s interest in becoming a leading provider of an expanding range of health care services, including services targeted at those suffering from tobacco-related diseases, would be served by following CVS’s example.”

The coalition’s letter comes one week after CVS, country’s second largest pharmacy chain, pledged to stop selling cigarettes later this year.  Earlier in the week, a group of eight Democratic senators also asked Wasson and Walgreens to ban tobacco.  The company says it is “evaluating” its tobacco policy.

Read the full letter below (or download PDF here):

Greg Wasson
Chief Executive Officer
Walgreen Co. 
200 Wilmot Road 
Deerfield, IL 60015

Dear Mr. Wasson:

As you know, the CVS drugstore chain announced last week that it would stop selling tobacco products.  We are writing to ask that you, as CEO of Walgreens, consider taking the same bold step by removing tobacco from your shelves and ceasing to advertise tobacco in your stores.

Indeed, removing tobacco products from your stores would be consistent with Walgreens’ mission statement to help consumers “get, stay and live well.”  We also believe that Walgreens’ interest in becoming a leading provider of an expanding range of health care services, including services targeted at those suffering from tobacco-related diseases, would be served by following CVS’s example.

We know that your company understands the devastation caused by tobacco. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in America, accounting for roughly one in five deaths annually.  In addition to lung cancer and heart disease, new research shows a growing list of ailments caused by smoking including diabetes, colorectal and liver cancers, vision loss, tuberculosis and complications of pregnancy.

Selling tobacco products is therefore at odds with Walgreens’ stated mission to promote health.  Many professional and public health organizations—including the American Pharmacists Association and the American Medical Association—support bans on tobacco sales in pharmacies. 

In addition, a poll of more than 2,500 pharmacists and pharmacy students found that only 1.6 percent support selling cigarettes in a pharmacy environment. Public opinion research and the consumers’ responses to CVS’s announcement indicate that the public also wants tobacco out of drugstores.

Tobacco’s tragic impact on our communities is clear. We urge Walgreens to stop selling tobacco products and set an example for the nation.

Thank you for your attention to our concerns.

Sincerely,

Sally Greenberg, Executive Director, National Consumers League

Michael Jacobson, Executive Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest

Nell Geiser, Associate Director, Change to Win Retail Initiatives

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About the National Consumers League

 

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Its mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

 

 

About Center for Science in the Public Interest

 

Since 1971, CSPI has been a strong advocate for nutrition and health, food safety, alcohol policy, and sound science. For more information, visit www.cspi.org.

 

 

About Change to Win Retail Initiatives

 

Change to Win Retail Initiatives is committed to making retailers more accountable and transparent to all stakeholders. For more information, visit www.changetowin.org.