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Attorneys General Ask Big Retailers To Pull Tobacco From Stores

CVS announced last month that it would no longer sell cigarettes and  tobacco products in its stores beginning Oct. 1.
Karen Bleier
AFP/Getty Images
CVS announced last month that it would no longer sell cigarettes and tobacco products in its stores beginning Oct. 1.

Attorneys general from 28 states are urging drugstores and large retailers to stop selling tobacco products. In letters sent to Kroger, Wal-Mart, and other store chains, the officials ask companies to follow the example of pharmacy chain CVS, which announced last month that it's going to stop selling tobacco products.

The bipartisan group of officials sent signed letters to leaders of five of the country's biggest retailers whose stores include pharmacies: Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Safeway and Kroger. They warned that selling tobacco in stores "normalizes" the products, potentially undermining anti-smoking campaigns.

NPR's Joel Rose reports for our Newscast unit:.

"The letters argue that it is contradictory for pharmacies and drugstores that offer health care services to also sell 'dangerous and devastating tobacco products.'

"New York's Eric Schneiderman and Ohio's Mike DeWine led the bipartisan group, which also includes attorneys general from Arizona, Connecticut and Illinois.

"The letters do not explicitly mention the possibility of legal action if stores decline to ban tobacco products. They simply urge the companies to follow the lead of drugstore chain CVS, which is voluntarily removing tobacco from its stores."

The attorneys general describe a need to prevent young Americans from taking up smoking, as well the risks of second-hand smoke. They say at least 480,000 preventable deaths were caused by tobacco-related diseases last year.

A letter sent to Kroger states, "Health care costs and productivity losses attributable to smoking cost the nation at least $289 billion each year."

More from the letter:

"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 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 percent of smokers said they wanted to quit; however, only approximately 4 percent were able to do so."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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