03/17/2014 09:45 am ET Updated Sep 03, 2014

24 States Pressure Walmart, Walgreens To Stop Selling Cigarettes


Attorneys General from 24 states, Washington D.C., and three U.S. territories sent letters to the country's biggest pharmaceutical retailers Monday, including Walmart and Walgreens, asking them to stop selling tobacco products.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine led the effort, coordinating letters to the CEOs of Walmart, Walgreens (which also owns and operates Duane Reade stores), Rite-Aid, Safeway and Kroger.

It's the officials' hope that these companies will follow the lead of CVS Caremark, which announced last month that it would stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products, even though it would mean an estimated $2 billion annual loss.

“Pharmacies and drug stores, which increasingly market themselves as a source for community health care, send a mixed message by continuing to sell deadly tobacco products,” said Schneiderman in a statement. “The fact that these stores profit from the sale of cigarettes and tobacco must take a backseat to the health of New Yorkers and customers across the country. I urge these companies to do the right thing and remove tobacco products from store shelves.”

The letters did not call for any litigation or legislation if the companies declined to institute a tobacco ban. Nor did the letters mention anything about the sale of electronic cigarettes.

According to the New York Times, none of the country's major pharmaceutical companies have signaled that they'd follow CVS Caremark's example.

Cigarettes cause more than 480,000 deaths annually in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.