Walgreens’ tobacco gross sales beneath ‘actual scrutiny,’ new CEO Roz Brewer says

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A person enters a Walgreens store in San Francisco, California, United States on Tuesday, April 13, 2021.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Roz Brewer, CEO of the Walgreens Boots Alliance, said the drugstore is closely examining whether it will continue to sell cigarettes and tobacco products as it increases its focus on healthcare.

“We’re thinking about what’s next in our stores,” she said in an interview with CNBC’s Bertha Coombs that aired on Thursday. “And how do we really project a healthy profile when you enter our stores? Tobacco is one of the areas that are currently under scrutiny. And you will see even more in this area. “

Walgreens exceeded Wall Street’s expectations for fourth quarter earnings on Thursday as Covid-19 vaccinations increased. Sales for the three-month period reflected the strength of health and wellness products, such as home Covid tests, vitamins, and over-the-counter medicines for coughs, colds, and flu.

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

Walgreens has been under scrutiny for years by some investors and public health officials for selling the products. Walgreens has cut tobacco-related goods, including stopping e-cigarette sales. In addition, the tobacco age was raised to 21 in 2019 after the Food and Drug Administration claimed the drugstore chain was selling to minors.

But its biggest competitor has already taken tobacco off the shelves. CVS Health stopped selling cigarettes and related products in 2014 because it was inconsistent with the company’s health mission.

The FDA has taken a tougher stance on e-cigarettes over fears that vaping will lead to an increase in tobacco use among teenagers – especially in flavors like candy, fruit, and mint. Earlier this week it approved a brand of e-cigarette for sale in the U.S. and said it could benefit some adult smokers who switch products. However, some of the company’s flavored products have not been approved.

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