CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, will stop selling cigarettes in select stores in four states. West Virginia is not on the list, but tobacco control advocates in the Mountain State hope to see an expansion soon.
“We call on Walmart to stop selling tobacco products at all their stores nationwide including West Virginia,” Molly Pisciottano, advocacy director for West Virginia and Pennsylvania at the American Lung Association, told MetroNews Tuesday.
Cigarettes are being removed from some Walmart stores in California, Florida, Arkansas and New Mexico, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
The move is Walmart’s latest change to its tobacco policies.
Pisciottano said there are a lot of Walmart stores in West Virginia and that the state could benefit from the change.
“Tobacco remains the number one cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S., so by removing the only legal product that will kill you when used as directed, that could potentially help public health overall,” she said.
Walmart decided to move ahead with the cigarette ban even though it is a significant revenue generator. The company stopped selling e-cigarettes and vaping supplies at Walmart and Sam’s Club stores in 2019.
Target, another major retailer, ended cigarette sales in 1996 and the drugstore chain CVS Health did the same in 2014.
Pisciottano said cigarettes have been banned in many entities over the years including restaurants and hotels, but smoking has also evolved. She said their newest challenge is keeping up with the popularity of vaping products.
“We’ve seen a great decrease in the number of people using tobacco across the United States in the past 20 years, which is really exciting to see, but unfortunately with seeing more and more new products coming out, which is variations of e-cigarettes and still seeing people smoke, there’s still more work to be done,” she said.
Much of that advocacy work starts at the statehouse, Pisciottano said.
“More funding can be provided to tobacco prevention and cessation programs,” she said. “In addition to that, increasing tobacco taxes is a proven, effective method to reduce tobacco use overall.”