Walgreens Will Keep Selling Smokes for Now

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Walgreen Co. will not stop selling tobacco products in its stores -- at least for now.

The Deerfield, Ill.-based drugstore retailer stands to gain plenty of business after its top rival, CVS Caremark Corp., pledged to stop selling tobacco products as of Oct. 1. Walgreen CEO Gregory Wasson, however, did not discuss how much business it could gain from CVS during a recent earnings call, reported Bloomberg Businessweek.

"What we're focused on is to help encourage our customers to make healthy choices and not only just with cigarettes, but with daily habits," Wasson told financial analysts. "That includes helping people quit."

CVS has stated its removal of cigarette products will cost the Woonsocket, R.I.-based operator of 7,600 drugstores approximately $2 billion per year. In addition to Walgreen, convenience stores are poised to benefit from this move.

Eight U.S. senators are hoping Wasson will change his stance and stop selling tobacco products in the approximately 8,700 U.S. Walgreens stores.

Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), sent letters last month to Wasson; John Standley, CEO of Rite Aid Corp.; and Steven Anderson, president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, asking that tobacco products be removed from store shelves.

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