By Nathaniel Meyersohn, CNN Business
Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, will stop selling cigarettes in select US stores following years of pressure on big chains to end tobacco sales.
Cigarettes are being removed from Walmart in various markets, including some stores in California, Florida, Arkansas and New Mexico, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. In some of these stores, Walmart has added more self-checkout registers, as well as other items such as grab-and-go food or candy in place of cigarettes, the Journal said.
The move is Walmart’s latest change to its tobacco policies.
Walmart, which has around 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 at most of its stores in recent years.
Walmart did not say how many of its stores have removed tobacco entirely. A spokesperson for Walmart told CNN Business that it made the “business decision” to end tobacco sales in select stores “as a result of our ongoing 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 tobacco sales in pharmacies.
More than two dozen state attorneys general in 2014 sent letters to large retailers with pharmacies, 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 services health care needs,” the letters said.
In 2014, CVS announced it would stop selling tobacco. At the time, CVS said the move would cost it an estimated $2 billion in revenue. CVS said selling tobacco was “inconsistent with our purpose” of being a health care provider.
Walgreens CEO Roz Brewer last year said tobacco sales were under “real scrutiny right now. And so you’ll see more to come in that area.”
Costco sells tobacco in some stores. Target ended tobacco sales in 1996.
Cigarette sales in the United States rose in 2020 for the first time in two decades.
The North American Quitline Association, a nonprofit that promotes tobacco-quitting services, attributed the reversal to “stress and anxiety resulting from the pandemic.”
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