Walgreens executives and shareholders arriving for the pharmacy giant’s annual 2017 shareholders meeting on January 26 in New York City were greeted with an energetic rally organized by the Truth Initiative, a national public health organization dedicated to making tobacco use a thing of the past. And if they picked up their newspaper that day, they would also see a prominent full-page advertisement placed by NYC Smoke-Free in the Wall Street Journal asking “why are drugstores and pharmacies still selling tobacco products?”
The dozens of youth and tobacco control advocates at the rally called on Walgreens Boots Alliance board of directors to allow their shareholders to vote on whether a study should be conducted surrounding the consequences of continuing to sell tobacco. Inside the meeting, concerned shareholders also pressed Walgreens executives to end tobacco sales.
NYC Smoke-Free and Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities partners, Tobacco-Free Staten Island and Tobacco Free Action Communities, joined the Truth Initiative for the high-profile event. Media coverage included NY1 and NY1 Noticias – with the Spanish interview conducted by NYC Smoke-Free’s Guillermo Flores. Press photos were also distributed nationally on the Associated Press AP Images wire.
The early morning action follows a truth petition that collected over 5,000 youth signatures asking Walgreens to take tobacco off the shelves of their 13,000 stores and the efforts of more than 69,000 young people who joined truth and DoSomething.org for their “Take Back the Shelves” campaign to encourage all pharmacies to remove tobacco products from their stores.
In New York City, while many neighborhood and chain pharmacies like CVS Pharmacy do not sell cigarettes or other tobacco products, more than 600 pharmacies still continue tobacco sales – over half are Duane Reade, Rite Aid, and Walgreens stores owned by the Walgreens Boots Alliance.
NYC Smoke-Free has been campaigning for years to ask all pharmacies to get out of the deadly tobacco business. Last May, NYC Smoke-Free organized a rally outside Duane Reade headquarters on Wall Street to ask our hometown pharmacy chain to stop contributing to NYC’s devastating tobacco epidemic and serving as Big Tobacco’s retail outlets in our neighborhoods.