Half of State Attorneys General Ask Walgreens, Walmart, Rite Aid and Others with Pharmacies to Stop Selling Tobacco Products

Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Cigarettes and stuffed animals at Walgreens (photo: annelandmanblog.com)

A bipartisan group of attorneys general has asked many of the nation’s leading retailers with pharmacies to end their sales of tobacco products.


Coming on the heels of CVS’ voluntary decision in February to stop selling such products, attorneys general (AGs) from 24 states, the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories sent letters to five major retailers—Walgreens, Walmart, Rite Aid, Kroger and Safeway—requesting them to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products.


The letters stated that it was a contradiction for companies to offer for sale “dangerous and devastating tobacco products” while meeting the health care needs of consumers.


New York’s AG, Eric Schneiderman, who helped spearhead the effort, told The New York Times in an email: “Pharmacies and drugstores, which increasingly market themselves as a source for community health care, send a mixed message by continuing to sell deadly tobacco products.…The fact that these stores profit from the sale of cigarettes and tobacco must take a back seat to the health of New Yorkers and customers across the country.”


CVS, the nation’s largest drugstore chain, made similar remarks when it announced its ban on tobacco products. CEO Larry J. Merlo said selling such products was “inconsistent with our purpose.” The decision is expected to cost the company $2 billion in sales, which isn’t that significant considering its overall sales eclipse $120 billion a year.


The letters that went out March 14 made no threat of legal action if the stores continue to sell cigarettes. But the AGs might consider urging legal reform or filing litigation if the five chains don’t halt tobacco sales.


It’s also important to note that the AGs made no mention of electronic cigarettes, which some experts say may be a gateway product for people to develop a smoking habit.


The Democratic and Republican AGs signing the letters represent Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont and Washington, plus the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico.


Various medical- and health-related organizations have also called for pharmacies to rid their shelves of tobacco products. Those voicing this position include the American Pharmacists Association, American Medical Association, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and American Lung Association.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

States Urge Retail Giants With Pharmacies to Stop Selling Tobacco Products (by Elizabeth Harris, New York Times)

State Attorneys General Letter to Walgreens (pdf)

CVS Quits for Good (CVS)


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