- Walmart is pulling cigarettes from select stores, including some in California, Florida, Arkansas and New Mexico, according to a Wall Street Journal report and confirmed by the company.
- The move comes after "years of debate" among Walmart leaders, according to the Journal's report, which noted that CEO Doug McMillon "challenged other executives to find a way to stop selling tobacco, without demanding that the company do so."
- In an emailed statement, a Walmart spokesperson said that "a result of our ongoing focus on the tobacco category, we have made the business decision to discontinue the sale of tobacco in select stores."
Retail's relationship with tobacco has long been complicated. Some of the largest chains in the country have moved away from cigarettes to varying degrees.
Costco, for example, pulled tobacco from the majority of its stores in 2016 as demand flagged but didn't eliminate sales entirely. CVS, on the other hand, went entirely tobacco-free in 2014. The company's own research found the change reduced cigarette purchasing broadly. Walgreens has de-emphasized tobacco, which has at times weighed on its overall sales, but hasn't forsaken the category entirely, nor has Rite Aid.
For drugstores, and other retailers housing pharmacies and health services, the presence of tobacco presents an awkward contradiction in messages as they try to fashion themselves as wellness destinations.
As for Walmart, it's not clear how many of its stores will pull tobacco now or in the future.
For now Walmart has couched the decision in terms of its operations. In the statement, a spokesperson said, "We are always looking at ways to meet our customers' needs while still operating an efficient business."
As the largest retailer in the world by revenue, Walmart's decisions on categories carry tremendous weight, both symbolic and material. With guns, the retailer has restricted sales to consumers 21 and older, and has stopped selling ammunition for assault weapons, among other moves.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to include information from a Walmart spokesperson.