Walmart to end tobacco sales at some locations


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Caryl Anne Francia, Business Editor

Walmart Inc. announced on March 28 that it is ending the sale of cigarettes in some of its stores.

The superstore chain first opened in 1962 in Arkansas. It currently has 4,742 locations in the United States, according to Statista.

It is not clear which or how many locations will stop sales of the tobacco product, but anonymous sources who are close to the matter told The Wall Street Journal that this will include locations in Arkansas, California, Florida and New Mexico.

Additionally, it was reported that some locations have replaced the cigarette cartons in the checkout section with portable food and candy.

“We are always looking at ways to meet our customers’ needs while still operating an efficient business,” a Walmart spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal.

Previously, Walmart increased the minimum age required to purchase cigarettes to 21 in 2019, also ceasing sales of e-cigarettes in light of increased usage among teenagers. In recent years, the Walmart-owned retail warehouse chain, Sam’s West Inc., also known as Sam’s Club to consumers, has also stopped selling cigarettes.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that tobacco sales at Walmart are only conducted by trained employees of a certain age, as dictated by local laws, while the products themselves are kept locked in a case.

Following Walmart’s announcement, stocks for tobacco companies dropped that morning, with Camel producer British American Tobacco PLC falling 1.6% and Marlboro producer Philip Morris International Inc. falling 2.2%.

The United States reaps in $95 billion revenue from cigarettes. While most purchase the tobacco product at convenience stores or gas stations, other retailers like Walmart are said to represent 14% of the sales, according to Euromonitor International.

While it is not known how much tobacco sales account for Walmart’s revenue, the Federal Trade Commission reported the tobacco industry earned $4.53 billion in revenue in the United States for 2020.

Aside from Walmart, Target Corp. has banned sales of tobacco products in its stores since 1996. CVS Health Corp. joined this move in 2014, resulting in a loss of $2 billion from its annual revenue.

Walmart’s announcement is the latest chapter of the retailers’ ability to deliver on the societal push away from tobacco products. In 2014, attorneys general from more than 24 states joined in a letter-writing effort to petition large retailers, including pharmacy chains, to stop selling tobacco products.

“There is a contradiction in having these dangerous and devastating tobacco products on the shelves of a retail chain that services health care needs,” state attorneys wrote in their letters.

In the United States, at least 480,000 deaths, or one out of every five deaths annually, are attributed to smoking, including through second hand inhalation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Food and Drug Administration limits tobacco sales to people who are at least 18 years old, but some states like California have laws limiting sales to those at least 21 years old. The CDC estimates that at the rate young Americans are smoking today, 5.6 million people, or one out of every 13 people under 18 years old, may die prematurely due to smoking-related health conditions.