States urge retail giants with pharmacies to stop selling tobacco

By Elizabeth A. Harris New York Times 

NEW YORK — More than two dozen attorneys general sent letters Sunday to five of the country’s largest retailers, encouraging them to stop selling tobacco products in stores that have pharmacies, which would follow the example CVS Caremark set with its announcement this year that it would stop selling such products in its drugstores.

The letters were sent to Rite Aid, Walgreen, Kroger, Safeway, and Walmart, companies that are among the biggest US pharmacy retailers.


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

Stopping the sale of tobacco products, they continued, “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.”

In February, Larry J. Merlo, chief executive of CVS Caremark, said selling tobacco products was “inconsistent with our purpose.” The company, the largest drugstore chain in the country in overall sales, has been moving increasingly toward becoming a health care provider, offering more mini-clinics, for example, rather than just pills and toiletries.

The attorneys general, led by Eric T. Schneiderman of New York and Mike DeWine of Ohio, represent 28 states and territories, including New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

The letters did not address the sale of electronic cigarettes, nicotine products that are expanding rapidly in sales.