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Walmart Stops Cigarette Sales In Selected Stores

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Cigarettes placed in supermarket shopping cart | Walmart Stops Cigarette Sales In Selected Stores | featured

American retail giant Walmart will halt cigarette sales in some of its 4,7000 locations. It will end cigarette and tobacco sales in some of its stores in California, Florida, Arkansas, and New Mexico. Walmart did not indicate the exact number of stores affected by the change.

RELATED: FDA’s Plan to Regulate Nicotine Levels a Major Blow for Big Tobacco

Walmart Joins Target and CVS Health In Ending Cigarette Sales

People shopping at a Walmart store | Walmart Joins Target and CVS Health In Ending Cigarette Sales

While not the first retailer to ban cigarette sales, Walmart is the largest. Rival Target ended cigarette sales way back in 1996, and CVS Health also banned sales in 2014.

CVS Health saw its sales drop off for a few quarters afterward. The decision stemmed not just from health concerns for its customers.

The company also realized that cigarettes are less profitable than other impulse items found at cash registers like candies, drinks, and snacks.

Walmart doesn’t sell tobacco products in New York and some parts of Massachusetts. There, local laws ban stores with retail pharmacies from selling cigarettes.

Meanwhile, at Sam’s Club (also owned by Walmart) only around 40 out of 600 stores sell tobacco products. Earlier in 2019, Walmart also got out of the vaping business.

Even as it enjoyed brisk sales of e-cigarettes, the complexity of dealing with federal and local regulations was too much. 

In addition, Walmart is slowly building up its healthcare segment. Currently, Walmart is the fifth leading pharmacy services provider in the US.

The retail giant hopes to leverage its shopper traffic to entice customers with added healthcare products and services. This includes in-store services such as urgent care, X-rays, dental cleaning, and blood work.

The company hopes that its low prices for health services can strike a chord with millions of Americans who lost their health benefits.

Tobacco and cigarette sales will likely undermine these efforts. However, a Walmart spokesperson said that the company will not totally eliminate cigarette sales from its stores. 

Walmart’s Move Can Disrupt the Tobacco Market

Walmart’s decision to stop cigarette sales can create a huge impact on the tobacco market and on public health. At present cigarette smoking is the cause of one in five deaths among Americans.

With Walmart’s large customer base, the reduction of cigarette retail shops can disrupt the tobacco market. With over $95 billion in sales last year, losing more retail stores and supermarkets can lower these numbers.

Consequently, its top selling locations, gas stations, and convenience stores will need to take on more tobacco customers.  

Eight months after CVS’s decision, the company reported that smokers bought less given the reduced access.

In states where CVS had 15% or more of the retail pharmacy market, smokers bought five fewer packs. As a result, CVS helped reduce cigarette sales by around 95 million fewer packs. 

Decision to Stop Cigarette Sales Made On a Store-By-Store Basis

Moving forward, the company said that decisions about banning cigarette sales will be on a store-by-store basis. Factors such as its location and the local market conditions will help in the decision-making process.

In a prepared statement, Walmart said that it’s a continuous process. “We are always looking at ways to meet our customers’ needs while still operating an efficient business,” Walmart said.

Watch the 40/29 News video reporting that Wal-Mart to stop selling cigarettes in some stores:

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