28 Attorneys General Urge Major Retailers To Discontinue Tobacco Sales

Is it a conflict of interest when stores that sell products to improve your health also make billions every year selling cigarettes? More than two dozen Attorneys General think so, and are lighting a fire under the nation’s largest drugstore and supermarket chains to get them to quit.

A group of 28 Attorneys Generals from around the country, including the District of Columbia, New York and Nevada, sent a letter [PDF] urging major retailers Walmart, Kroger Co., Safeway Inc., Walgreens Co., which also operates Duane Reade stores, and Rite Aid Corp. to end the contradiction by discontinuing the sale of tobacco products at stores that house pharmacies.

“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,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says in a news release. “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.”

The letter from the Attorneys General came just a month after CVS, the nation’s second-largest drugstore chain, announced its stores would cease selling tobacco products by October 1 of this year.

Shortly after the announcement, Walgreens assured customers it still had plenty of tobacco products in stock. However, the company did say it would “evaluate its tobacco line“, a move that didn’t sit well with consumer advocates.

Monday’s letter lays out a number of reasons why the retailers should discontinue selling tobacco products, one of which is to benefit youth.

“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 Attorney General Mike DeWine says in a statement. “The health of our kids is just too important.”

The letter claims youth are particularly susceptible to social and environmental encouragements to use tobacco, and the normalization and easy availability of tobacco products at retail stores represent a significant threat.

“Moreover, the sale of tobacco products in retail chains weakens the effect of media campaigns whose objective is to de-normalize the use of tobacco products,” the letter states.

In early February, the Federal Drug Administration announced the first anti-smoking campaign aimed at teens. The $115 million multimedia education campaign called “The Real Deal” focuses on the true costs and health consequences of smoking by focusing on what really matters to them – their outward appearance.

Additionally, the letter claims a decrease in tobacco sales would save the United States nearly $289 billion a year in health care costs and productivity losses.

Since 1964, more than 20 million Americans have died as a result of smoking. Nearly 2.5 million of those deaths were nonsmokers who died of diseases associated with secondhand smoke.

A.G. Schneiderman Spearheads National Effort Calling On Major Pharmacies To Stop Selling Tobacco Products [New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman]

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