Pharmacy Retail Chains’ Changing Relationship with Tobacco Products

Pharmacy Retail Chains' Changing Relationship with Tobacco Products

Pharmacy chains, with a heavy presence in many neighborhoods, were once an important retail outlet for tobacco manufacturers. While that hasn’t changed, pharmacy chain’s views of tobacco have and has left tobacco manufacturers without its once important retail partner. Rite Aid, one of the U.S.’s largest pharmacy chains, has announced that it will stop selling e-cigarettes and vaping products. Its reasoning has little to do with sales figures–they now feel these two product categories are contributing to the recent uptick in America’s youth increasing use and addiction to tobacco products. This follows the recent focus and crackdown on these products by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [read more here].

In the past week, Rite Aid revealed that it would be removing these products from its more than 2,4000 stores over the next 90 days. The New York Times reports that Rite Aid will continue to sell other combustible tobacco products, a move many anti-tobacco advocates are now questioning.

“We’re concerned about some of the alarming statistics regarding the use of e-cigarettes and vaping products by children and teens,” said Bryan Everett, Rite Aid’s chief operating officer, on a recent earnings call. He acknowledged that many view these products as having certain benefits to adults who are trying to quit smoking but that these product’s popularity among underaged smokers made the move necessary.

Some anti-tobacco advocates feel Rite Aid’s move could actually lead to an increase of tobacco use in teens who will turn to combustible tobacco products as e-cigarettes and vaping products become scarce. This is why they also feel Rite Aid should follow CVS’ lead, who stopped selling all tobacco products in their stores in 2014. As Rite Aid gets out of one product category, it will begin testing the sale of CBD (cannabidiol) products in some of its stores. Everett revealed that Rite Aid will be introduced CBD topicals (lotions, creams, balms) in the states of Washington and Oregon.