Author: Jaleesa Baulkman
Sorry smokers, but you’ll have to go someplace other than Costco to get your cigarettes.
The New York Daily News reported the retailer has spent the past few years quietly phasing tobacco products out of nearly 300 stores; there are 488 in total. Tobacco smoke has been linked to adverse health effects, such as lung and oral cancer, though that’s not why Costco did it. Instead, the company said the decision was more about business than public health.
“Tobacco is a very low margin business, tends to have higher theft and is labor intensive in some cases (due to local municipality regulations) — further, we felt we could better use the space to merchandise other items,” a spokesman from Costco told The Street.
According to The Street, Costco officials first hinted at the ban during a call with analysts, where they said tobacco sales had fallen to a “low double digit.” The company hasn’t made an official announcement because “[press releases] are a waste of money.”
The retail giant’s move is another blow to the tobacco industry, which has seen a significant drop in the percentage of Americans who smoke in the past 50 years. In 2014, the smoking rate hit an all-time low of 17.8 percent, and the rate is still dropping, The Huffington Post reported. Not to mention other retailers have quit selling these kinds of products, too.
In 1996, Target was the first large retail store to stop selling cigarettes, citing costs related to efforts to keep cigarettes out of the hands of minors, The New York Times reported. In 2014, CVS also stopped selling cigarettes in its 7,600 of its pharmacies nationwide. However, unlike Costco and Target, CVS said its decision was an effort to “help people on their path to better health.”
“CVS Caremark is continually looking for ways to promote health and reduce the burden of disease,” CVS Caremark Chief Medical Officer Dr. Troyen A. Brennan previously said in a statement. “Stopping the sale of cigarettes and tobacco will make a significant difference in reducing the chronic illnesses associated with tobacco use.”
Cigarette use is responsible for the deaths of more than 480,000 people each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite the many studies and graphic anti-smoking ads shedding light on the cancers and diseases associated with the habit, more than 20 percent of men and more than 15 percent of women in the United States still light up.
CVS’ ban did lead to a 1 percent decrease in cigarette sales, so who’s to say Costco’s elimination won’t have a similar effect?