Eight U.S. senators have called on the chief executive officers of Walgreen Co., Rite Aid Corp. and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores to follow suit with CVS Caremark Corp.'s plan to stop sales of tobacco products at drug stores.

sales of tobacco products, drug stores, CVS Caremark, U.S. senators, Walgreens, Rite Aid, National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Greg Wasson, John Standley, Steve Anderson, Tom Harkin, Sherrod Brown, Richard Blumenthal, Jay Rockefeller, Jack Reed, Sheldon Whitehouse, Richard Durbin, Barbara Boxer, smoking cessation, tobacco use, pharmacy, cigarette sales, Nancy Gagliano, CVS/pharmacy, MinuteClinic

Other Services
Reprints / E-Prints
Submit News
White Papers

Retail News Breaks Archives

Senators urge Walgreens, Rite Aid, NACDS to
end drug store tobacco sales

February 10th, 2014

WASHINGTON – Eight U.S. senators have called on the chief executive officers of Walgreen Co., Rite Aid Corp. and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores to follow suit with CVS Caremark Corp.'s plan to stop sales of tobacco products at drug stores.

Sen. Sherrod Brown

Sens. Tom Harkin (D., Iowa), Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.), Jay Rockefeller (D., W. Va.), Jack Reed (D., R.I.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.), Richard Durbin (D., Ill.) and Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.) sent letters late last week to Walgreens president and CEO Greg Wasson, Rite Aid chairman and CEO John Standley and NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson urging them to cease selling tobacco products in their drug stores and promote smoking cessation.

In the case of NACDS, the senators asked the association to encourage their member pharmacy retailers to do so.

"We recognize the legality of selling and profiting from tobacco products; however, we also believe that your members are in a position to have a major positive impact on public health," the senators said in the letter to NACDS. "By reducing the availability of cigarettes and other tobacco products and increasing access to tobacco cessation products, your members have the power to further foster the health and wellness of their customers and send a critical message to all Americans — and especially children — about the dangers of tobacco use."

CVS announced its plan last week, saying it will pull tobacco products from the shelves in its 7,600-plus stores by Oct. 1. The company estimated that it will lose $2 billion annually in sales from tobacco consumers. The initiative drew widespread praise, including from President Barack Obama.

In the letters, the senators said "CVS Caremark's bold and admirable decision" will dovetail with federal initiatives to improve public health and pare medical costs via continued implementation of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, access to smoking cessation therapies with no out-of-pocket expenses under the Affordable Care Act, and public awareness campaigns such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "Tips from a Former Smoker" and the Food and Drug Administration's "The Real Cost."

"In recognition of the 8.6 million Americans who currently suffer from smoking-caused illnesses, we hope you will join this national effort to end the scourge of tobacco use," the senators wrote in the letters. "We look forward to working with you in a joint effort to promote the health of all Americans."

On Monday, Brown appeared with Nancy Gagliano, chief medical officer of CVS' MinuteClinic unit, at a CVS/pharmacy in Lakewood, Ohio, to outline the company's effort to stop selling cigarettes and invest in promoting smoking cessation.

"CVS' announcement is excellent news for the health of Americans across the country," Brown said at the event. "While we've made progress in the last half century, tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death in the world. Here is a tangible corporate decision that can significantly slow the insidious creep of addiction, lung cancer, coronary disease and respiratory harm caused by tobacco and nicotine. In order to continue this progress and save lives, other pharmacy retailers need to take responsibility for the health of their customers and stop the sale of tobacco products."

Blumenthal said in a statement Monday that drug stores' sale of tobacco conflicts with their focus on health care.

"Good health and tobacco simply can't be sold in the same store. Pharmacy companies cannot honestly promote health products and profit from death and addiction. We're urging all pharmacies to follow CVS in stopping cigarette sales—  sacrificing some profits but saving lives. Customers will thank and reward pharmacies that help halt tobacco addiction, disease and death — so horribly costly in dollars and lives to all Americans," he stated. "Put your stores truly at the corner of happy and healthy, not death and addiction. Instead of spreading the scourge of smoking, promote cessation. Selling cigarettes may be legal, but it's not right."

In the wake of CVS' announcement, Walgreens and Rite Aid released statements noting that, along with tobacco products, they sell a range of smoking cessation products and offer resources to help people quit smoking.