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

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  • Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO Roz Brewer said the drugstore is keeping a close eye on the merchandise it sells as it focuses on its health care.
  • “Tobacco is one of the areas that is under real scrutiny right now,” she said in a CNBC interview. “And so you’ll see more to come in that area.”
  • Its rival CVS Health stopped selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in 2014.

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Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO Roz Brewer said the drugstore is keeping a close eye on whether it will continue to sell cigarettes and tobacco products as it shifts its focus to health care.

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“We’re wondering what’s next in our stores,” she said in an interview with CNBC’s Bertha Combs, which aired Thursday. “And how do we actually present a healthy profile to you when you enter our store? Tobacco is one of those areas that’s under real scrutiny right now. And so there’s more to come for you in that area.” will see.”

Walgreens beat Wall Street’s expectations for fiscal fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday, as it got a lift from the Covid-19 vaccination. Sales over a three-month period reflected the business’s strengths related to health and wellness, such as at-home COVID testing, vitamins and over-the-counter medicines for cough, cold and flu.

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Comparable retail sales grew 6.2% in the fourth quarter compared to the year-ago period. This increased to 7.2% after the company excluded tobacco and e-cigarette sales.

For years, Walgreens has been under scrutiny by some investors and public health officials for selling the products. Walgreens has reduced tobacco-related tradeoffs, such as stopping the sale of e-cigarettes. It raised the tobacco purchase age to 21 in 2019 after the Food and Drug Administration alleged that the drugstore was selling to minors.

Yet its major competitor has already taken tobacco off the shelves. CVS Health stopped selling cigarettes and related products in 2014, saying it was not in line with the company’s health care mission.

The FDA has taken a tougher stance on e-cigarettes amid concerns that vaping is increasing tobacco use among teens — especially those with flavors like candy, fruit, and mint. Earlier this week, it approved an e-cigarette brand for sale in the US, saying it could benefit some adult smokers who turn to products. However, it did not approve some of the company’s flavored products.

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