- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A moaning horde of zombies shuffled Wednesday into Chinatown — not to search for brains but to protest against cigarettes.

The walking dead (about 50 members of the anti-smoking campaign Truth Initiative) shambled for an hour outside the downtown Walgreens, calling out the pharmacy giant for selling tobacco products.

“We really wanted to show Walgreens and the community what tobacco products actually does to their customers,” said Truth Initiative spokesman Vincent Irving. “We know that tobacco can make you sick, harm your health, we also know that it can harm your looks… we wanted to really showcase and add a visual component to this protest, instead of being out just chanting chants.”

Mr. Irving said his group chose the Chinatown location for its heavy foot traffic, just down the street from the campaign’s D.C. headquarters.

“I’m a little shocked because I didn’t know Walgreens actually still sold cigarettes,” said Danielle Pinkney, a D.C. native who stopped to film the protestors. “If you about health and all that, they really shouldn’t be, so this makes a lot of sense.”

The demonstration’s mantra of “Not Happy, Not Healthy” played on Walgreens‘ longtime advertising slogan, “On the corner of Happy and Healthy.” In December, the company changed it to “Trusted since 1901.”

Last year, the Chicago Tribune reported that at the Walgreens annual shareholders meeting in New York, attendees pressed company executives on the continuing sale of tobacco products.

During that meeting, James Skinner, executive chairman of Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., the holding company that owns the pharmacy, said that while the company is looking at the issue “very seriously,” they also “respect the choices of our consumers to decide what they want to purchase,” the Tribune reported.

The question is likely to arise again next week, as Truth activists are expected to attend the Walgreens shareholder meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona, to press executives on the issue.

Mr. Irving said Truth representatives will be at the Arizona meeting, despite it being moved to a private resort hotel where they wouldn’t normally have access to protest.

“We’re going to be inside the meeting … and during the question and answer time we’re going to ask the CEO questions regarding what stance they have on banning tobacco sales.”

Walgreens Boots Alliance spokesman Michael Polzin said the company will respond to questions about tobacco sales as they arise at the meeting.

“As far as what we intend to say about it, I’d rather leave that to the meeting if it comes up,” Mr. Polzin said in an email to The Washington Times.

More than 480,000 people in the U.S. die each year from complications related to cigarette smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making it the leading cause of preventable death. More than 41,000 deaths are from second-hand smoke.

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