“Twenty-eight attorneys general from 24 states, three U.S. territories and Washington, D.C. are pressuring five retailers, including Walgreen Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., to follow the move by CVS Caremark Corp. and end sales of tobacco,” The Los Angeles Times reported Monday.
CVS Caremark Corp announced its commitment to phasing out cigarette and tobacco sales by October 1 last month, “making it the first national drugstore chain in the United States to take cigarettes off the shelves,” according to Fox News. The motion could potentially cost CVS $2 billion in sales. CBS News affiliate puts it succinctly, describing the removal of tobacco products as “bold and risky.”
Attorneys general applauded the move and asked other major retailers to follow suit, stating that selling tobacco along with products prescribed by doctors is “contradictory” and “misleading,” The New York Times adds. “Pharmacies and drugstores, which increasingly market themselves as a source for community health care, send a mixed message by continuing to sell deadly tobacco product,” Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman wrote in an email. “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.” The group of attorneys general also targeted Rite Aid, Kroger, and Safeway.
The letters, for now, are simply a plea to consider consumers’ health. There is no current legislation — or plans for legal recourse — should the retailers ignore and/or dismiss attorneys general urging. Rite Aid is the only retailer to openly respond to the letters thus far, The Los Angeles Times reveals. Rite Aid said that they appreciate the time and thought put into the letters and will look into it in more depth. Wal-Green highlighted sales and education about products to quit smoking. Wal-Mart, Wal-Green, Kroger, and Safeway did not offer further comment, however.
“It sounds like a great spin on the idea that premium shelf space behind the counter can be used for better products than tobacco,” says Mike Gross, VP Sales and Marketing at Retail Management Solutions. “I think they’re spinning it to make it look like a health-related decision, but it’s actually more of a business decision, and a smart one. I do believe that pharmacies being in the business of healthcare should not be carrying tobacco products.”