Health Risks of In-Store Tobacco Sales in the Age of Covid
RESOLVED: Shareholders request the Board of Directors of Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) issue a report within twelve months of the 2021 annual meeting, at reasonable expense and excluding proprietary information, assessing how the increased health risks of severe COVID-19 infections to customers that smoke impact our company’s evaluation of risks associated with selling tobacco products.
The COVID-19 global pandemic has destroyed the health of individuals, devastated families, and shut down communities. The United States has been particularly hard hit by the virus.
The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed a new reality, in which responsible behavior on the part of individuals, communities, and corporations is needed to prevent the spread of the disease and the resulting hospitalizations, suffering and death.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Being a current or former cigarette smoker may increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19.” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html#smoking
A meta-analysis of peer-reviewed papers from 19 research teams, including CDC’s COVID Response Team, found that “smoking is a risk factor for progression of COVID-19, with smokers having higher odds of COVID-19 progress than never smokers.” Tobacco use nearly doubles the risk that someone who tests positive for the virus will end up hospitalized or dying of COVID-19.
JAMA[i] reported that research on smoker behavior reveals that reducing the number of tobacco sales outlets reduces smoking among young people.
Leading national retail chains with pharmacies such as Wegmans, CVS and Target have stopped selling tobacco products arguing that it undermines the health and well-being of their customers and presents reputational risks;
A CVS-commissioned study[ii] found a significant decrease in cigarette consumption in states where cigarette sales were discontinued in their stores;
The perception of pharmacies, reinforced by their marketing, is that they are associated with good health. WBA lists as its purpose: We help people around the world lead healthier and happier lives;
On October 7, 2019, WBA announced it would discontinue the sale of e-cigarettes after approximately 1,080 people became ill and 18 people died in connection with vaping certain black market marijuana products, but WBA has continued to sell traditional tobacco products as COVID-19 infections surge past 4 million and deaths surpass 150,000 in the U.S. alone (as of July 30, 2020).
Reputable public health organizations throughout the world are in consensus around the contradictions of health care companies such as pharmacies continuing to sell tobacco, which seriously undermines health. Smoking damages lungs, which can exacerbate the effects of COVID-19 on patients. Health care retailers cannot honor their commitment to improve health while serving the interests of the tobacco industry.
For these reasons we urge you to vote FOR this proposal.