Is Walgreens anti-health?

UPDATE on April 3, 2014: No-Shit-Sherlock: Yes, Walgreens is anti-health and clearly prefers short-term revenue over the health of their customers. 

See CVS Quits for Good and then skim this article at Motley Fool about how, “Walgreen said it’s going to ignore the pressure for the time being and continue selling cigarettes to its customers”Walgreen Ready to Smoke CVS With Tobacco Sales.

Check out this Twitter direct message stream from Walgreens social media that just came in at 10:45am on 4/3/14

Check out this Twitter direct message stream from Walgreens social media that just came in at 10:45am on 4/3/14. CLICK FOR A LARGER VERSION


17 years ago my Mom died of lung cancer at 62 years of age after a lifetime of smoking. My Dad, 85 years old, has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which has slowly robbed him of his breath. So to say that I’m biased against smoking, I’d have to agree but also point out that I side with virtually every health professional and medical organization in the world who looks at the science of smoking-related illness and sees it as the #1 most detrimental-to-health addiction known.

To say smoking is anti-health is an understatement. To consider a retailer with health at its core making that #1 anti-health product widely available in their stores, is unconscionable. 

A few weeks after my Mom died I happened to be in a Walgreens where I was acquainted with the manager. “Why do you sell health as an organization and yet sell cigarettes?” He had no answer other than to lean forward and whisper, “Because we make A LOT of money off of them.

A cool smartphone user smoking. She’ll look like 10-miles-of-bad-road in just a few years (like most smokers do)

Stopping off this past week at a Walgreens near my Dad’s house to pick up a few things for him, I saw a young man in front of me buy two packs of Kool menthol cigarettes. When it was my turn I asked the older woman cashier, “Why does Walgreens promote health and yet sell cigarettes?” Sheepishly she averted her gaze and in a low voice said, “I know its wrong…but I just work here and we sell alot of them.

To Walgreens leadership I say: Be a leader in health and get rid of the cigarettes or don’t bullshit us with stuff like this on your website in your “health encyclopedia” about the hazards of smoking and how to quit which, ironically, contains solid information about smoking’s detrimental impact on health which you published.

It’s been 17 years since my Mom died and I haven’t become an anti-smoking crusader by any means, but I like and shop at Walgreens so want to see you take a position for health!

I’m sure you make money on supplying tobacco, a clearly addictive, health destructive product. Walgreens also has a Respiratory Services group for which, I’m fairly certain, helps people who’ve damaged their lungs through smoking. But if all you want to do is make money, why not sell porn? Malt liquor? Some constantly morphing designer drug brand just one-step ahead of the Drug Enforcement Agency?

There is absolutely zero argument that a leader of a 7,500 store “health” chain could make to justify carrying a highly addictive, irrefutable cancer-causing product like tobacco. Unless Walgreens thinks that selling cigarettes might ensure long term growth in Respiratory Services and other products? Even a sometimes cynical guy like me would have a hard time believing that so to Gregory Wasson, CEO of Walgreens, I say, “Show some leadership and get cigarettes and other tobacco products OUT of your stores…now.
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  1. Dean on November 21, 2011 at 9:53 am

    Steve … this is just spot on, and it has been something I have been thinking about, too. I have been in line at Walgreens where about five or so people in front of me bought only cigarettes. I’m think this makes no sense at all … except for the profit margin. And if you look around at any drugstore the biggest impression is not of health it’s just the opposite — cigarettes, junk food, etc.

  2. Steve Borsch on November 21, 2011 at 10:40 am

    Thanks for the comment Dean. No question it’s confusing for customers. Hope they take action!

  3. Ryan on September 25, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    I couldn’t agree more. I realized I wasn’t the only person who felt this way, and recently transferred my prescriptions to Target. Nice article.

  4. Nick on November 9, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    Wow, really? What’s it doing to you? Why not let people sell what they want? Do you have an overwhelming urge to buy cigarettes when you look at them? EVERYONE is well aware cigarettes are HORRIBLE for your health. All that being said, I often go to Walgreens to buy my cigarettes as their prices are insanely good! That should be the real investigation! How do they afford to sell ’em so cheap? GO WALGREENS!!!!

  5. Steve Borsch on November 9, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    This is hardly worth a reply since you obviously don’t get it, but when you get lung cancer will you go to a doctor who smokes like a chimney? Same thing as Walgreens selling cigarettes.

    Enjoy your addiction.

  6. Nick on November 10, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    I’ll most likely have no idea if my doctor “smokes like a chimney”. It’s not something I typically ask a physician. You know, not my main concern in that situation…. at all. Seeing as how I’d have no idea if he/she is a smoker I guess it wouldn’t really matter would it? They’d have relatively the same credentials as any other doctor. Just like Walgreens. It doesn’t really matter. Honestly, pharmaceutical companies do more damage than cigarettes do, forcing people into debt for the rest of their lives while giving them strange, toxic chemical compounds and telling them it will make them feel better. Another thing, Walgreens sells milk. MILK. Why aren’t you upset about that? Are you aware that ingesting dairy products put you at a higher risk for breast, prostate & testicular cancer than cigarettes do for lung cancer? But, the FDA doesn’t tell you to stop drinking milk or eating cheese so you feel like you’re a perfect little boy. Even now, you’re probably thinking “this guy’s gone overboard”. But I assure you it’s true. Look it up!

    Enjoy your ignorance. (which isn’t a slam, it’s just unfortunate.)

  7. Nick on November 10, 2012 at 1:06 pm


  8. Nick on November 11, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    Hey man (apologies for detouring from the thread) did you know that veteran’s only get discounts on Tuesdays?!?!?!? AND it’s only 10%. That’s upsetting to me & I just want everyone to know about this. Also, I think you’d agree with me on this. I’d like to end things in a peaceful resolve. That being; you & I being upset with Walgreens. Thanks for forcing me to look at their policies. :)

  9. Monica Smith on December 18, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    I was an employee at Walgreens and this just irritated me to the core. Not only did I have to sell cigarettes to people but was forced to say “Be Well” because that is the slogan. I brought this up to a manager. He had the idiotic balls to say “We sell candy” My response was “Candy does not cause cancer.” What an idiot. Btw…Walgreens does not make a profit off of cigarettes. The concept is try to sell many things in one store to draw in the customers. Even cigarettes because they will buy more things. No they do not. I know my cigarette customers because they walk through that entrance and come straight to the counter and buy their cigarettes and walk straight out.

  10. Steve Borsch on April 3, 2014 at 7:23 am

    I applauded when CVS announced a few weeks ago they were no longer going to sell tobacco products. See CVS Quits for Good for more.

    Then I also read this article at Motley Fool about how, “Walgreen said it’s going to ignore the pressure for the time being and continue selling cigarettes to its customers”: Walgreen Ready to Smoke CVS With Tobacco Sales.

    You are right about about candy and other sugar items and obesity. No question that the long term effects of obesity are causing all sorts of health problems. But the horrendous negative health impacts of smoking (and other tobacco uses) is so well studied that virtually every health professional ON THIS PLANET will tell you that cigarette smoking is THE LEADING CAUSE OF PREVENTABLE DEATH.

    So it is clear that Walgreens doesn’t give a shit about their customer’s health, all while they are happily selling pharmaceuticals for health, smoking cessation products, and other medicinal offerings.

  11. Real Estate in Barringtonnne Guest on April 3, 2014 at 6:14 am

    Found this when looking for inspiration. My Dad smoked and died young and now my eldest son is smoking. He buys his at gas stations, I guess because he is a night owl. I do agree that Walgreens really should not sell cigs, especially at the door! CVS too! One can also argue though that candy and other sugar items are a health threat given the amount of overweight people. It’s a vicious cycle. Not sure it will ever be resolved unless someone packages self control and sells it.

  12. Teresa Boardman on August 6, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    The sellers disclosure

  13. Savannah Urban on September 20, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    It’s all for profit. Just like the fact that alcohol is legal. Not that there’s anything wrong with it other than so many people die from it. Not big deal huh. Just like cigarettes all they do is cause serious problems. Walgreens is a contradiction and needs to pick a side pro health or pro cancer. In which they also sell alcohol which does even more damage especially mixing it with yet another thing they sell that is horrible for you, energy drinks. You mix alcohol with an energy drink and throw some rat poison on top of it sounds like a great night in the ER huh? Not telling anyone what to do but.. Think before you start defending a place that could be you or a loved one’s death bed.

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About Steve Borsch

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.