Tobacco users in California, Florida, Arkansas, and New Mexico will have to shop at someplace other than Walmart for their tobacco products starting soon. According to a new Wall Street Journal report, the retailer has made a decision to remove cigarettes and cigarette products from select stores in these states in the near future.
The report states that the move comes as part of Walmart’s push toward self-checkout. With no store employees stationed at the scan-and-go stations, it makes it difficult to check IDs of tobacco purchasers. The move away from cigarettes will presumably allow the company to fill up checkout areas with more reasonably priced impulse purchase items like candy.
This decision has been a long time coming. In 2019, Walmart made its first move in this direction by raising the tobacco purchase age to 21 and discontinuing the sale of some flavored nicotine products. That move was made in response to pressure from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about the policies Walmart had in place to prevent the sale of tobacco and electronic nicotine delivery systems to anyone who was underage.
“We are always looking at ways to meet our customers’ needs while still operating an efficient business. As a result of our ongoing focus on the tobacco category, we have made the business decision to discontinue the sale of tobacco in select stores," a Walmart spokesperson told ConsumerAffairs.
While the company may be the largest retail outlet to remove cigarettes from stores, it’s not alone. Amazon took down vape paraphernalia from its site several years ago, and CVS stopped selling cigarettes and tobacco products when CVS rebranded itself as “CVS Health” in 2014.
Tobacco manufacturers face broad restrictions
In addition to companies like Walmart and CVS tamping down on cigarette sales, some states are also tightening their regulations regarding tobacco products.
More than a dozen states have legislation on the books or in the works regarding the regulation and taxation of tobacco, according to CSPDailyNews, which covers news about convenience stores. Some – like Hawaii and Colorado – are banning the sale of flavored tobacco products. In Mississippi, House bill 892 calls for taxing all tobacco products except cigarettes at the rate of 22.5% of the manufacturer’s list price.
In Maryland, retailers in Prince George's County are facing a tall order if they want to sell tobacco products. A proposed bill would require that any retailer who wants a license to sell tobacco products has to guarantee that they do not have an alcoholic beverage license and that the establishment is at least a mile away from another licensed establishment that sells tobacco products.