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Could 2019 be the year when pharmacies finally stop selling tobacco products?

Nearly a decade ago, the American Pharmacists Association issued its policy urging pharmacies and facilities with pharmacies to stop selling tobacco products. Yet thousands of pharmacies across the country continue to sell tobacco — its use still the No. 1 cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S. — including most Walgreens stores, the country’s second largest pharmacy chain. 

Pharmacies and other tobacco retailers not only sell products — they are the industry’s main marketing outlet. Two-thirds of the tobacco industry’s more than $8 billion annual marketing expenditure goes to tobacco marketing in retail environments, including in-store advertisements, discounts and product displays behind checkout counters. Research shows that tobacco marketing in stores is linked with more young people starting to smoke and decreased success for people attempting to quit.

There is large public support for removing tobacco from pharmacies. A Truth Initiative® survey showed that nearly three-quarters — 73 percent — of Walgreens shoppers surveyed say the pharmacy chain should ban the sale of tobacco products. Eighty-two percent of Walgreens shoppers agree that “the primary focus of stores with pharmacies should be selling products that help people stay and get healthy.”