Walgreens faces anti-tobacco effort ahead of annual meeting

January 9, 2017

Two organizations opposed to tobacco sales at pharmacy chains are turning their attention to Walgreens’ annual shareholder meeting on January 26.

Two organizations opposed to tobacco sales at pharmacy chains are turning their attention to Walgreens’ annual shareholder meeting on January 26.

Starting January 6, Truth Initiative and DoSomething.org is asking youth to sign a petition telling Walgreens that tobacco doesn’t belong on its shelves. “The Walgreens Board of Directors went to great lengths – twice – to block a vote from their agenda that would have been a step toward taking tobacco off Walgreens’ shelves,” Truth Initiative said in a statement to Drug Topics.

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Plus, shareholders of Walgreens Boots Alliance and members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility want Walgreens to discuss taking tobacco products off their shelves at the annual meeting.

However, Phil Caruso, a spokesperson for Walgreens, told Drug Topics that the subject is not scheduled to be discussed at the meeting. “We firmly believe that the most effective step retail pharmacies can take to help smokers quit is to address the root causes of smoking, which go far beyond the small percentage of smokers who access this product at pharmacies.”

Caruso said Walgreens offers smokers a number of solutions to “help them change behavior and quit smoking… A year ago, we began offering telemedicine consultations for smoking cessation with board-certified physicians through our program with MDLive, and we also began a pilot program to offer personal, face-to-face smoking cessation consultations with nurse practitioners at select Healthcare Clinics located inside Walgreens stores.”

In addition, the retailer’s Balance Rewards for healthy choices program offers smoking cessation content and tools on Walgreens.com, individual support through the Walgreens online Pharmacy Chat and tools to enable participants to track their progress toward smoking cessation while earning Balance Rewards points as an incentive.

 

Meanwhile, Truth and DoSomething.org’s new effort comes on the heels of another successful campaign, Take Back the Shelves, which asked young people to creatively use social media to demand that pharmacies remove tobacco from shelves throughout the month of December.

More than 69,000 youth joined the effort, according to Truth Initiative.

"Tobacco and pharmacies just don't mix," said Aria Finger, CEO at DoSomething.org. "In 2014, CVS Health stopped selling tobacco products and we hope that other pharmacies will follow their lead and listen to young people.”

“Pharmacies are a trusted source of health information and services. Yet in 2016, more than 50,000 pharmacies still sell tobacco -- the number one preventable cause of death in the U.S., killing more than 1,300 people each day,” Truth Initiative said.

After CVS banned the sale of tobacco products in its stores nationwide, the chain reported that cigarette purchases dropped a percentage point in states where the company has a large presence. During that time, 95 million fewer packs of cigarettes were sold in those states, according to Truth Initiative.

Youth who signed up for the campaign learned about “how tobacco companies attract young consumers by displaying their products at point-of-sale, behind checkout counters and on eye-level shelves,” according to Truth. They could download a template and create artwork with items they want to see behind pharmacy checkout counters instead of tobacco products.

Then, they shared their drawings on social media with #TakeBacktheShelves, tagging a pharmacy to ask them to remove tobacco products from their shelves.

In addition, Kira Kosarin, a 19-year-old star of Nickelodeon's The Thundermans recorded a public service announcement to encourage fans to join the effort.