Walmart will stop selling cigarettes in some of its 4,700 U.S. locations, the retail giant confirmed on Monday.
The Wall Street Journal was the first to report the development Monday. It noted some stores in California, Florida, Arkansas and New Mexico were on the list, citing anonymous sources and store visits.
Walmart is not the first national retail chain to cut off cigarette sales even on a trial basis, but it is the largest. Target ended cigarette sales in 1996, and the drugstore chain CVS Health did the same in 2014, with the latter seeing a drop off in sales outside the pharmacy for a few quarters after it pulled tobacco products.
Decisions about removing cigarettes at Walmart will be made on a store-by-store basis according to the business and particular market, the company said Monday.
"We are always looking at ways to meet our customers' needs while still operating an efficient business," Walmart said in a prepared statement.
1 in 5 deaths
The decision comes after internal debate at Walmart about selling the product as the retailer aims to grow its footprint in health services, the Journal noted. Cigarettes are blamed for causing one of every five deaths in the U.S. each year.
Most of the nation's $95 billion in cigarette sales last year occurred at gas stations and convenience stores, with Walmart and other mixed retailers representing about 14% of cigarette sales volume, the publication added.
CVS had predicted that missing tobacco products would hurt annual earnings by 7 to 8 cents per share. Yet overall revenue has grown every year at CVS, however, after a number of acquisitions and changes to its stores bolstered the company's health care offerings. CVS Health bought the health insurer Aetna in 2017.
Walmart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, announced in 2019 that it was getting out of the vaping business and would stop selling electronic cigarettes at its stores and also at Sam's Clubs. It said at the time the decision was based on "growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity."
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