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Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids targets R.J. Reynolds marketing of smoke-free products

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON Plans by R.J. Reynolds to test market three new smokeless tobacco products have drawn ire from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

The three products, marketed under the Camel brand as Camel Strips, Sticks and Orbs, dissolve in the mouth and come in “fresh” and “mellow” flavors, RJR has advertised. RJR is testing them in Indianapolis, Columbus, Ohio, and Portland, Ore.

“RJR’s new products add to a growing list of novel products tobacco companies have introduced recently in their relentless efforts to recruit new youth users, create and sustain addiction to nicotine and discourage current users from quitting,” the campaign said in a statement. “The tobacco industry will continue to get away with these harmful practices until Congress ends the industry’s regulatory exemption and passes legislation granting the [Food and Drug Administration] authority over tobacco products.”

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Walgreens backs out of Longs buyout offer

BY Antoinette Alexander

DEERFIELD, Ill. In yet another twist and turn to the ongoing tale of the sale of Longs Drugs, Walgreens announced late Wednesday, that it has withdrawn its bid.

“While we believe we made a compelling proposal for Longs, we do not believe it would be in the best interest of Walgreens shareholders, customers or employees to allow this situation to remain unresolved for an extended period of time,” stated Walgreens chairman and chief executive officer Jeff Rein. “Walgreens has a strong balance sheet and robust cash flow. We will continue to focus on strategic initiatives that will maximize value for our shareholders.”

CVS announced in mid-August that it plans to buy for $2.9 billion, including debt, Longs’ 521 retail locations in California, Hawaii, Nevada and Arizona, as well as its PBM services. On Sept. 5, the waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvement Act expired, satisfying a condition to the closing of CVS’ offer.

Looking to quash the deal that Longs management had already approved with CVS, Walgreens came forward at the 11th hour with an unsolicited, non-binding bid to buy Longs for nearly $3 billion in cash and debt assumption.

While Walgreens’ offer represented a $3.50 per share premium over the cash purchase price to be paid to Longs shareholders under the proposed acquisition by CVS, the bid from Walgreens immediately raised the eyebrows of several industry analysts given the likely regulatory hurdles and the potential for substantial store divestitures.

Longs rebuffed—twice—Walgreens’ unsolicited bid to acquire the chain but, up until now, Walgreens held its ground maintaining that it would continue to move forward was prepared to go directly to Longs’ stockholders.

“In light of your repeated refusal to accept our invitation to engage in a constructive dialogue that could lead to a mutually beneficial transaction, and the substantial deterioration in the national economic outlook over the past few weeks, we do not believe it would be in the best interests of the shareholders, customers or employees of either Walgreens or Longs to allow this situation to remain unresolved for an extended period of time,” stated Rein in a letter addressed to Longs chairman, president and chief executive officer Warren Bryant. “Accordingly, we have determined to accept the finality of your prior rejections of our Sept. 12 proposal and withdraw our proposal effective immediately.”

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TRICARE, AAFES launch ‘Get Fit’ Web site to support healthy youth initiative

BY Michael Johnsen

FALLS CHURCH, Va. The Army and Air Force Exchange Service has partnered with the Defense Commissary Agency and Military OneSource on the launch of a new web page, http://www.tricare.mil/getfit, to promote a healthy lifestyle partnership aimed at military families, the military pharmacy operator announced Monday.

Along with military healthcare payer TRICARE, AAFES is hoping to raise awareness of childhood overweight and obesity issues through the site. The “Healthy Youth for a Healthy Future” initiative was launched by the United States Department of Health and Human Services and this year focuses on childhood obesity.

Partner initiatives include a special childhood obesity “Dietitian’s Voice” column at http://www.commissaries.com. Military families can also get additional information on losing weight, getting in shape and maintaining good health at the DeCA Web site, including advice-packed columns, recipes and an open question and answer forum.

AAFES is also encouraging healthy food choices in its food courts and plans to keep the effort going in November through special coupon offers in shopper circulars.

Citing statistics from the U.S. Surgeon General, obese children are more likely than children of normal weight to become overweight or obese adults. Overweight or obese adults are more at risk for several health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer and osteoarthritis.

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