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Tobacco

Will Walgreens Stop Selling Smokes?

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- If CVS’ departure from tobacco sales more than two years ago is any indicator, a potential exit of Walgreens from the category would be another lucrative windfall for convenience-store operators.

But will the Deerfield, Ill.-based drug-store giant, which is in merger talks with Camp Hill, Pa.-based Rite Aid, actually kick the habit?

Not anytime soon, officials said during an investor call last week, according to a Chicago Tribune report.

At the same time, however, officials said they may one day snuff out the category, amid shareholders expressing concern at the meeting.

When CVS Health, Woonsocket, R.I., dropped its $2 billion-a-year tobacco business in 2014, many convenience retailers saw bumps in tobacco sales at their stores.

Executives with Walgreens fielded numerous questions about the sale of tobacco products during its investor meeting in New York, the Tribune reported. Walgreens takes the matter “very seriously,” said James Skinner, Walgreens Boots Alliance executive chairman. He emphasized that while Walgreens sells tobacco products, the chain offers its customers smoking-cessation alternatives, as well.

“We also respect the choices of our consumers to decide what they want to purchase,” the Tribune quoted Skinner as saying. “That’s also part of our decision.”

Still, executives said the issue is continually up for reconsideration, the news agency reported.

“We’ve reviewed this on a regular basis, and it’s always up for a review and decision down the road,” Skinner said. “Nothing is final.”

Shareholders who questioned executives said tobacco sales at Walgreens ran contrary to its slogans of helping people “live healthy, happy lives,” the Tribune reported.

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