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Walmart, Rite Aid, and other major pharmacies urged to stop selling tobacco

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Walmart, Rite Aid, Kroger, Safeway, and Walgreens have been targeted by State Attorneys General in a new campaign to get tobacco products off of drug store shelves, N.Y. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced in a March 17 press release. The effort, led by Schneiderman and Ohio A.G. Mike DeWine, is supported by the Chief Legal Officers of 28 states and territories.

The Attorneys General wrote to the heads of the five retailers urging them to follow the example of CVS Pharmacy, which plans to stop selling all tobacco products in their 7,600 stores beginning Oct. 1, 2014.

“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.” — N.Y. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman

The states are concerned that the “mixed message” of selling tobacco products alongside products that promote health normalizes tobacco use and threatens youth, who are easily influenced by social messages. Media efforts to de-normalize tobacco use are hindered by the availability of tobacco in these large retail chains.

According to Schneiderman, tobacco-related disease caused more that 480,000 deaths last year, more than the combined total of deaths from AIDS, alcohol, illegal drug use, car accidents and firearm-related deaths. Each year, health care needs and lost productivity due to smoking costs the nation at least $289 billion.

The Attorneys General also sent CVS Caremark CEO Larry Merlo a letter commending the corporation’s decision to remove tobacco products from its stores calling the move an example of great corporate leadership.