Tobacco Sales Under Scrutiny at Walgreens

Company announces new consumer-centric healthcare strategy
Walgreens store
Photograph: Shutterstock

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO Roz Brewer said tobacco sales are under scrutiny at the drugstore chain as the organization focuses more on healthcare.

Brewer told CNBC’s Bertha Coombs in an Oct. 14 interview that they are thinking about what’s next in Walgreens stores.

“And how do we really project a healthy-for-you profile when you enter our stores? Tobacco is one of those areas that’s under real scrutiny right now. And so you’ll see more to come in that area,” Brewer told CNBC.

Walgreens announced its new consumer-centric health care strategy this week, which features the launch of Walgreens Health, a new business segment enabled by investments in VillageMD and CareCentrix, accelerating the company’s capabilities in primary care, post-acute care and home care.

In its fiscal 2021 earnings report, Walgreens said its retail sales increased 6.5%. Excluding tobacco and e-cigarettes, they increased 7.2%, reflecting broad based growth across all categories, the chain said. Health and wellness sales increased 14%, aided by cough cold and flu, at-home COVID-19 tests and vitamins, Walgreens said.

The Deerfield, Ill.-based company pulled electronic cigarettes from its stores in October 2019 in response to statements at the time from federal and state health officials regarding the safety of the devices. Walgreens declined to provide details to CSP beyond Brewer's comments.

Rival drugstore chain CVS, Woonsocket, R.I., pulled all tobacco products. from its shelves in 2014. The chain has never sold e-cigarettes.

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