On Monday, The Wall Street Journal posted an article about a new policy in Walmart.
The article reports:
Walmart Inc. is ending cigarette sales in some U.S. stores after years of debate within the retail company’s leadership ranks about the sale of tobacco products, according to people familiar with the matter.
Cigarettes are being removed in various markets, including some stores in California, Florida, Arkansas and New Mexico, according to the people and store visits. In some of these stores, Walmart has rolled out a design with more self-checkout registers, as well as other items such as grab-and-go food or candy sold near the front of stores in place of Marlboro, Newport and other tobacco products.
Walmart, which has more than 4,700 U.S. stores, is removing tobacco products from select locations where the retailer has decided to use the space more efficiently, a spokeswoman said. “We are always looking at ways to meet our customers’ needs while still operating an efficient business,” she said. She declined to say how many locations will continue to sell cigarettes but said Walmart isn’t halting all tobacco sales.
I am not a smoker and hate the smell of cigarette smoke. However, tobacco is a legal substance. People are addicted to it, but it is a legal substance. Any retail outlet has the right to sell or not to sell any product it wants to; however, I wonder if this is a portent of things to come. Will bookstores stop selling conservative books (many already avoid putting them in prominent places)? Will grocery stores decide meat is bad for you and stop selling it? Will drug stores stop selling over-the-counter pain medication because some people become addicted? The decision by Walmart may lead to equally bad decisions by other retail outlets.
The article also notes:
As with tobacco, Walmart has pulled back on sales of firearms in recent years after similar internal discussions. It raised the age to purchase guns to 21 after the 2018 high-school shooting in Parkland, Fla., and discontinued sales of ammunition used in semiautomatic weapons and handguns after a 2019 shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.
At Walmart, sales of cigarettes are generally less profitable than some other items sold near the front of stores such as candy, according to the people familiar with the situation. It is also an operationally complex sale, eating into profits. Tobacco is kept in a locked case or blocked from shoppers. Food and Drug Administration regulations require that an employee make the sale. At Walmart, that employee must be over a specific age based on local laws and trained in tobacco sales. Theft is high throughout the supply chain, said some of these people.
Was this a decision based on principle or profit?