Cigarettes are displayed on Oct. 31, 2013 in New York City.
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Quit it! States urge top retailers to stop selling tobacco

More than two dozen states joined forces urging Walmart and four other retail giants to stop selling tobacco products at their pharmacy chains.

A group of attorneys general from 28 states and territories sent letters to the CEOs of Rite Aid, Walgreens, Kroger, Safeway and Walmart asking them to follow the lead of CVS Caremark, which recently opted to go smoke-free.

“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 said Monday in a statement.

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Why CVS made a huge decision on cigarettes

Chris Hayes talks to anti-smoking activist John Banzhaf about CVS’ decision to stop selling cigarettes.
Chris Hayes talks to anti-smoking activist John Banzhaf about CVS’ decision to stop selling cigarettes.

He’s spearheading the effort, along with Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

“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,” DeWine said. “The health of our kids is just too important.”

The letters formally asked these companies to “take the next step and to stop all sales of tobacco products” in their stores. It continued, “Doing so would effectively bring us full circle, back from the time when a tobacco manufacturer could advertise that ‘More doctors smoke CAMELS than any other cigarette’ to a time when cigarettes simply cannot be purchased from a business that sells products prescribed by doctors.”

Last month, CVS announced voluntary plans to phase out tobacco sales by Oct. 1. The retailer will lose about $2 billion annually, but the company argued it’s worth it in order to be a solid promoter of good health.

“It was very important to us that, as we’re working with doctors and hospital systems and health plans, that they see us as an extension of their services,” CVS Pharmacy president Helena Foulkes said in February. “It’s virtually impossible to be in the tobacco business when you want to be a health care partner to the health care system.”

Health care costs linked to smoking in America amounts to an estimated $289 billion every year.