By Nathaniel Meyersohn, CNN Business
Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, will stop selling cigarettes in some US stores after years of pressure on major chains to end tobacco sales.
Cigarettes are being pulled from Walmart in various markets, including select stores in California, Florida, Arkansas and New Mexico, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. In some of those stores, Walmart added more self-checkouts, along with other items such as takeout food or candy in place of cigarettes, the Journal said.
The move is the latest change Walmart has made to its tobacco policies.
Walmart, which has about 5,000 stores in the United States, in 2019 raised the minimum age to buy tobacco to 21 and stopped selling e-cigarettes. Sam’s Club, owned by Walmart, has also stopped selling cigarettes in most of its stores in recent years.
Walmart did not say how many of its stores have phased out tobacco altogether. A Walmart spokesperson told CNN Business that it made the “business decision” to end tobacco sales at select stores “due to our continued focus on the tobacco category.”
Public health advocates have long urged retailers to stop selling tobacco products, and some cities and states have also banned the sale of tobacco in pharmacies.
In 2014, more than two dozen state attorneys general sent letters to major drugstore-owned retailers, including Walmart, to end tobacco sales.
“There is a contradiction in having these dangerous and devastating tobacco products on the shelves of a retail chain that serves health care needs,” the letters read.
In 2014, CVS announced that it would stop selling tobacco. At the time, CVS said the move would cost it about $2 billion in revenue. CVS said selling tobacco was “inconsistent with our purpose” of being a health care provider.
Last year, Walgreens CEO Roz Brewer said tobacco sales were under “real scrutiny right now”. And so you will see more to come in this area.
Costco sells tobacco in some stores. Target ended tobacco sales in 1996.
U.S. cigarette sales increased in 2020 for the first time in two decades.
The North American Quitline Association, a nonprofit that promotes smoking cessation services, attributed the reversal to “stress and anxiety resulting from the pandemic.”
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