The tobacco industry has got to be feeling some heat today and not just from burning cigarettes. It’s been all over the news that CVS – the nation’s #2 drugstore chain - will stop selling any kind of tobacco products by October 1. Now the #1 chain – Walgreens – is getting hounded to do the same thing:
Consumers across social media have been fervently calling on Walgreen Company (NYSE: WAG) to follow CVS’s unprecedented lead. On Wednesday, health-conscious social media users descended on the Walgreens Facebook page, asking the Deerfield, Ill., company to commit to a smokeless future at its 8,500-plus locations. Some avowed Walgreens customers threatened to start shopping at is smoke-free competitor if their requests for a tobacco ban are not heeded. “I hope I don’t have to pass by my corner Walgreens to support CVS now,” wrote one Facebook user.
It was a similar story on Twitter, where many users tweeted Wednesday morning with the hashtag #CVSquits.
Walgreens is “evaluating” but if they take this step, it would be a huge turnaround for this company. In fact, in 2008, Walgreens sued to challenge the constitutionality of a San Francisco ordinance “that prohibited the sale of tobacco products in drug stores” arguing that “the ordinance was discriminatory in that it singled out drugstores but left grocery chains free to sell tobacco products.”
Actually, litigation has become the tobacco industry’s weapon of choice to invalidate local ordinances aimed at cutting down smoking. Just last week, Lorillard, R.J. Reynolds, Philip Morris USA and three trade groups filed a federal lawsuit to block a New York City “ordinance passed last fall that set a minimum price of $10.50 for every pack of cigarettes sold in the city, and prohibited the use of coupons or other promotional discounts to lower that price. The coupon ban also applies to other forms of tobacco.”
Tobacco manufacturers and sellers say those restrictions on discounts are an unconstitutional violation of free speech rights.…
The suit asks the court to block parts of the law from taking effect in March. It does not challenge the most high-profile section of the law, which banned the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.
New York City's pricing rules were signed into law in November by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. They were the last in a string of anti-tobacco rules and laws that he championed over his 12 years as mayor that made New York City's cigarettes the costliest in the country. Retail prices now often exceed the minimum set by the city, due to high taxes. Bloomberg left office at the end of December. …
The tobacco industry filed a similar lawsuit against the city of Providence, R.I., when it implemented a ban on coupons and discounts. That legal challenge failed when the city's rules were upheld by a federal appeals court.
Of course, these industry lawsuits are terribly ironic. As we have noted before, the “tort reform” movement began in the 1980s and 1990s largely fueled by cigarette company money. They sought – and got - legislation immunizing the industry against products liability claims in several states. Hypocrite? They’ve been called worse.