FDA Puts Walgreens on Notice for Selling Tobacco To Minors

The United States Food and Drug Administration has finally issued a warning to Walgreens about its track record of selling tobacco to children. While the idea that a store might not be as tightly focused on who buys products (because sales are sales, after all), it is particularly important to crack down on this activity because Walgreens is a pharmacy brand.  

But what is most alarming about this move from the FDA has everything to do with just how prolific Walgreens’ violations are. According to FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, Walgreens has accumulated 1,800 such violations, nationally, for selling tobacco to minors since 2010.   In addition, though, approximately 22 percent of the company’s 6,300+ locations have, in fact, sold products to minors, illegally. 

Apparently, this is not an isolated issue: Walgreens is only the top violator among all national pharmacies who sell tobacco products—as not all pharmacies do carry such products.  You may recall that CVS, recently, chose to stop selling tobacco products a few years ago, saying that as a pharmacy, they prefer to focus on health and wellness.  

In his statement, Gottlieb expressed he now has “particular concerns about whether the pharmacy setting is influencing consumer and retailer perceptions around tobacco products in a way that’s contributing to these troubling findings.”  More specifically, Gottlieb made sure to note that he has officially “put them on notice” and, furthermore, is considering other means of enforcement if they do not make any changes to remedy this issue. 

This is all very important because the FDA may, under federal law, has the authority to charge a No-Tobacco-Sale Order on any retailer who commits a minimum of five violations of federal tobacco laws within a period of 36 months.  Again, Walgreens has, apparently, racked up 1,800 of these violations since 2010.

In response, of course, a Walgreens spokesperson said the company is taking the issue quite seriously and has already initiated new steps to addressing the problem. This includes—and is certainly not limited to—requiring identification for anyone who wants to purchase tobacco products regardless of their [visible] age. 

“In addition,” the company goes on to say, “we are training all of our store team members on the new requirements and strengthening disciplinary actions against store employees who violate the policy.”

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