Will Rite Aid and Walgreens gain health cred by restricting tobacco sales?
CVS ended the sale of tobacco products in its stores in 2014. The move, at the time, cost the drugstore chain about $2 billion in annual sales. Despite the hit, the chain moved ahead with the ban. At the time, CEO Larry Merlo said, “Simply put, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose.”
In more recent news, both Rite Aid and Walgreens issued press releases this week announcing they are raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco and vaping products in their stores to 21. Reading the announcements, you might conclude that both retailers are simply doing the right thing by taking steps to reduce tobacco use by teens and young adults despite the likely losses in revenues such actions will bring.
The truth, according to reports, is that both chains are conforming to local and state prohibitions on the sale of tobacco to anyone under 21. Dozens of states and hundreds of local governments have passed bills raising the age to legally purchase tobacco to 21.
Rite Aid and Walgreens are also a half-step ahead of expected federal legislation that will also prohibit the sale of tobacco based on age. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has previously announced he would introduce a bill next month to raise the national minimum age for purchasing tobacco products to 21.
Walgreens, which will put its new restrictions in place on Sept. 1, said the decision was part of its continuing effort to keep these harmful products out of the hands of younger consumers.
The chain has touted its smoking cessation program efforts and other steps to restrict tobacco use to adults. Unfortunately, Walgreens was named by the Food and Drug Administration as the pharmacy most likely to sell tobacco to underage consumers. Twenty-two percent of Walgreens’ 6,350 stores illegally sold tobacco to minors, according to the FDA.
Walgreens, which has tested tobacco-free stores at 17 locations in the Gainseville, FL market, has steadfastly maintained that it will continue to sell tobacco products because of its positive effect on the retailer’s top and bottom lines.
Rite Aid’s press release says its new tobacco policy will go into effect in 90 days.
“Our decision is directly related to research from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health that shows over 80 percent of adult smokers smoked their first cigarette before they turned 18, and nearly 95 percent started before age 21,” said Bryan Everett, chief operating officer of Rite Aid, in a statement.
- Rite Aid Raises Age to Purchase Tobacco Products to 21 – Rite Aid Corporation
- Walgreens to Implement New Tobacco 21 Policy to Further Prevent Youth Access to Tobacco Products – Walgreens
- Should the ‘Vaping Age’ Be 21? Drugstores Say Yes – The New York Times
- Why is Walgreens still selling tobacco products? Because people want to smoke – USA Today
- CVS to walk away from $2 billion in cigarette sales – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will Rite Aid and Walgreens derive business benefits from each chain’s announcement regarding age prohibitions on the sale of tobacco and vaping products? Will CVS benefit at this point from its forward-thinking actions on the issue?