State Attorneys General Ask National Pharmacy Chains to Stop Selling Tobacco

Led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, the Attorneys General (AGs) of 25 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia have written to the chief executive officers of Wal-Mart, Walgreens (which also operates Duane Reade stores), Rite-Aid, Safeway and Kroger, asking them to follow the lead of CVS Caremark and cease selling tobacco products in their stores throughout the United States. The AGs also sent a letter to CVS Caremark commending it for its voluntary action.

State AGs have long fought to protect their citizens from the dangers of tobacco products. In the 1990’s, State AGs sued the major cigarette companies for the harm their products caused. These lawsuits resulted in a Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) with the major tobacco companies who are often referred to as “Big Tobacco”. The principal goal of the MSA is to reduce underage tobacco use by preventing youth access to tobacco products. To help achieve that goal, the states devote considerable resources to the prevention of sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products to minors.

In the letters to the major retail pharmacies, the AGs claim:

  • tobacco-related disease is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, causing more than 480,000 deaths in 2013;
  • health care costs and productivity losses attributable to smoking cost the nation at least $289 billion each year;
  • almost 90 percent of all adult smokers start smoking by 18 years of age; and
  • “Big Tobacco” relies on getting young people addicted to cigarettes and keeping them as life-long smokers.

According to AG 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. The health of our kids is just too important.”

AG Schneiderman has led a number of efforts to keep tobacco out of the hands of young New Yorkers. New York’s Tobacco Compliance Bureau has cracked down on websites illegally selling cigarettes and shut down so-called “roll your own” cigarette shops in New York City. The AG’s Criminal Prosecution Bureau has also taken down a cigarette trafficking ring that operated up and down the Eastern Seaboard.