ST. LOUIS (AP) — Schnuck Markets Inc., one of the Midwest's largest grocery store chains, will stop selling cigarettes, chewing tobacco and other tobacco products as of Jan. 1.
Suburban St. Louis-based Schnucks announced the move Thursday. Schnucks is the largest grocer in the St. Louis area and operates 115 stores overall in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa. The privately held company already does not sell e-cigarettes or vaping products.
"Tobacco products are certainly a profitable part of our business, but our company's mission is to nourish people's lives," Schnucks Chairman and CEO Todd Schnuck said in a statement. "Tobacco products directly contradict our core mission and that means that they simply don't belong in our stores."
Other chains have stopped selling tobacco products in recent years, including CVS. Walmart announced in May that it was raising the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21 from 18.
Robin Koval, CEO of anti-tobacco nonprofit Truth Initiative, applauded the move by Schnucks.
"We know that when tobacco is easily accessed, easily available, when young people see it in the store, that all contributes to making it seem acceptable and normal for young people," Koval said. "So these kinds of moves are important."
Schnucks said removing tobacco is part of a broader effort to focus on wellness and promote healthier choices for customers. Other efforts include a partnership with workout centers to encourage physical activity and the launch of a program that teaches life skills and health habits to children. The store's app also allows customers to view nutritional information.
Missouri, where the majority of Schnucks stores are located, has one of the nation's highest smoking rates _ about 21% among adults. Missouri also has the nation's lowest tobacco tax rates, 17 cents per pack of cigarettes.
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