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One more reason Walgreens should stop selling tobacco

Walgreens stopped selling cigarettes in its Gainesville, Florida, stores in April — a promising step toward the pharmacy chain removing tobacco from all its stores. Soon after, Walgreens was hit with a considerable reason to do just that: It emerged as the worst offender among several pharmacy chains that were caught selling tobacco products to minors, according to a report published in JAMA Pediatrics.

27% of Walgreens shoppers reported that they would shop at Walgreens more often if it stopped selling tobacco products.

The report found that the Food and Drug Administration caught Walgreens selling tobacco products to minors 1,296 times during 12,587 inspections, or about 1 in 10 (10.3 percent) inspections. The authors examined records from inspections that the FDA conducted in approximately 13,200 U.S. pharmacies, including Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS and others, between 2012 and 2017. The results show that “all pharmacy chains were significantly less likely than Walgreens to sell tobacco to minors.”

The lead author of the study notes that the findings may underestimate how many times chain pharmacies have actually sold tobacco products to minors, according to Reuters.

The JAMA Pediatrics report comes five months after Walgreens stopped selling cigarettes at all 17 of its Gainesville, Florida, stores as part of a pilot program to help people quit smoking, according to The program will last about 12 to 18 months before Walgreens officials decide whether to remove tobacco products at other stores, a move Truth Initiative® has been supporting for years.

Truth Initiative, as well as other organizations, including, the Campaign for Tobacco-free KidsAmericans for Nonsmokers' Rights and NYC Smoke-Free, have organized a series of activism efforts to get Walgreens, and all pharmacy stores, to protect customers and get rid of tobacco products. These efforts include a social media campaign, a petition, a zombie-themed protest and rallies at Walgreens shareholders meetings.  

The evidence supporting the removal of tobacco products at Walgreens and all pharmacies is clear. Pharmacies selling tobacco are contributing to more young people starting to smoke and making it harder for smokers to quit. Surveys also show large public support for removing tobacco from pharmacies.

Truth Initiative conducted a survey of 571 Walgreens shoppers and found that nearly three-quarters — 73 percent — reported that they were in favor of the pharmacy chain banning the sale of tobacco products. The survey also found that 27 percent of Walgreens shoppers reported that they would shop at Walgreens more often if it stopped selling tobacco products.

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