Democratic senators have expanded their push to get retailers to yank tobacco products off the shelves following the announcement by CVS that it would willingly do so.
Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Jay Rockefeller (D-W-Va.) first sent a letter to Walgreens, Rite Aid and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores asking them to follow CVS’ example.
On Friday, Durbin, Harkin, Reed, Whitehouse, Boxer, Brown, and Blumenthal turned their attention toward Walmart, urging the discount giant to pull tobacco from its shelves.
The senators said they were fixing their sights on Walmart “as the number one retailer of cigarettes in the country.”
“We recognize the legality of selling and profiting from tobacco products; however, Walmart’s position as the nation’s largest retailer of any kind puts your company in a unique position to contribute to the health and well-being of all Americans,” they wrote in a letter to Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon.
“We understand that – as your predecessor Lee Scott put it – ‘there are still a tremendous number of [Walmart] customers who smoke.’ However, we are also well aware that three quarters of adult smokers want to quit. In fact, 85 percent of smokers say they have tried to quit at least once. By eliminating tobacco sales in your stores and further promoting cessation products, you can do an extraordinary service for the 100,000,000 customers that shop in your U.S. stores every week and send a critical message to all Americans – and especially children – about the dangers of tobacco use,” the senators continued.
They said a pledge by Walmart would “complement federal efforts” like smoking cessation programs under Obamacare.
“However, we believe private industry has an important role to play in tobacco control and prevention efforts,” they wrote.
“In recognition of the 8.6 million Americans who currently suffer from smoking-caused illnesses, we hope you will join this national effort to end the scourge of tobacco use. We look forward to working with you in a joint effort to promote the health of all Americans.”