Walgreens CEO Roz Brewer: Tobacco sales under ‘real scrutiny’ as drugstore chain steps up health-care focus

An individual enters a Walgreens retailer in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, April 13, 2021.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Photographs

Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO Roz Brewer mentioned the pharmacy is taking a tough take a look at whether or not it should proceed to promote cigarettes and tobacco merchandise because it steps up its concentrate on well being care.

“We’re interested by what’s subsequent in our shops,” she mentioned in an interview with CNBC’s Bertha Coombs that aired Thursday. “And the way do we actually mission a healthy-for-you profile whenever you enter our shops? Tobacco is a type of areas that is beneath actual scrutiny proper now. And so you will see extra to return in that space.”

Walgreens beat Wall Avenue’s expectations on Thursday for fiscal fourth-quarter earnings, because it bought a carry from Covid-19 vaccinations. Gross sales within the three-month interval mirrored the energy of well being and wellness-related merchandise, equivalent to at-home Covid checks, nutritional vitamins and over-the-counter drugs for cough, chilly and flu.

Comparable retail gross sales rose 6.2% within the fourth quarter in contrast with the year-ago interval. That elevated to 7.2% when the corporate excluded gross sales of tobacco and e-cigarettes.

For years, Walgreens has been beneath scrutiny from some traders and public well being officers for promoting the merchandise. Walgreens has scaled again tobacco-related merchandise, equivalent to stopping sales of e-cigarettes. It additionally raised the tobacco buying age to 21 in 2019 after the Meals and Drug Administration alleged that the pharmacy chain was promoting to minors.

But its main competitor already took tobacco off cabinets. CVS Health stopped promoting cigarettes and associated merchandise in 2014, saying it did not align with the company’s health-care mission.

The FDA has taken a tougher stance on e-cigarettes, amid issues that vaping is resulting in an increase in tobacco use amongst teenagers — particularly with flavors like sweet, fruit and mint. Early this week, it approved an e-cigarette brand for sale in the U.S., saying it may benefit some grownup people who smoke who swap merchandise. Nonetheless, it didn’t approve among the firm’s flavored merchandise.

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