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State AGs call on major chains to end tobacco sales
March 17th, 2014
NEW YORK – The attorneys general of 28 states and territories have asked the chief executive officers of Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart, Kroger and Safeway to remove tobacco products from their stores.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Monday said that the states sent letters to the retailers' CEOs late last week. They called on the retail pharmacy operators to follow suit with CVS Caremark Corp., which last month announced that it will end all sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products in its more than 7,600 CVS/pharmacy stores by Oct. 1.
In addition, the 32 attorneys general commended CVS for its decision to stop selling tobacco in its drug stores.
"Pharmacies and drug stores, which increasingly market themselves as a source for community health care, send a mixed message by continuing to sell deadly tobacco products," Schneiderman said in a statement. "The fact that these stores profit from the sale of cigarettes and tobacco must take a backseat to the health of New Yorkers and customers across the country. I urge these companies to do the right thing and remove tobacco products from store shelves."
Besides New York and Ohio, attorneys general signing the letter were from Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, the Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont and Washington.
"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 to Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart, Kroger and Safeway said. "The availability of such products in a retail store that also serves as a pharmacy normalizes tobacco use. Furthermore, selling tobacco products in the same store as smoking-cessation products is likely to increase impulse tobacco purchases among those trying to quit and undermines their efforts. In a recent year, nearly 70% of smokers said they wanted to quit; however, only approximately 4% were able to do so."
The attorneys general noted that tobacco-related disease is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States — causing more than 480,000 deaths in the last year alone — and that since 1965, more than 20 million Americans have died prematurely as a result of smoking. They also said that health care expenses and productivity losses attributable to smoking cost the nation at least $289 billion each year.
In particular, they pointed to the dangers of youth smoking, noting that nearly 90% of all adult smokers start smoking by age 18 and that "Big Tobacco" relies on getting young people addicted to cigarettes and keeping them as life-long smokers.
"My fellow attorneys general and I are asking these national retailers to take an additional step forward in keeping tobacco products away from youth by voluntarily not selling them in their stores with pharmacies," Ohio's DeWine stated. "The health of our kids is just too important."
The letters to Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart and Kroger said the chains have "demonstrated leadership in the area of tobacco control" by entering into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance with the attorneys general to help reduce cigarette sales to youth.
"But now we ask you to take the next step and to stop all sales of tobacco products in your retail stores that have pharmacies," the letters said.
The attorneys general also noted that, along with CVS, "other major retailers such as Target and Wegmans have already decided to stop selling tobacco products, as have other independent pharmacy retailers and small chains."
The letters were address to Greg Wasson, president and CEO of Walgreen Co.; John Standley, chairman and CEO of Rite Aid Corp.; Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Walmart; W. Rodney McMullen, CEO of Kroger Co.; and Robert Edwards, president and CEO of Safeway Inc.