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Walmart Is Removing This Controversial Product From Some Stores

The company has been debating about the decision for years.

There are almost 5,000 Walmart locations around the country, but some will not be selling a specific product anymore. Years after a debate started over whether or not America's largest retail chain should sell these at all, people familiar with the matter recently told the Wall Street Journal that cigarettes won't be available in select stores.

Shoppers in some Walmart locations in California, Florida, Arkansas, and New Mexico are already seeing newly designed layouts with more self-checkout stations that feature grab-and-go foods like candy where employee-led checkouts used to be. The updates, plus the fact that the FDA requires an employee of the business to sell cigarettes and Walmart further requires the employee to be trained in tobacco sales, "tobacco became really problematic," one person familiar with the situation told WSJ.

"We are always looking at ways to meet our customers' needs while still operating an efficient business," a spokesperson also told the news organization without naming which stores will still have cigarettes from brands like Marlboro, Newport, and others.

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The decision comes about two years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, although some company leaders, including CEO Doug McMillion, reportedly argued for the end of tobacco sales in stores long before that.

WSJ says the move is part of Walmart's continued push to be a health resource for shoppers. Some top executives argue that the company shouldn't be "morally policing its shoppers" by removing cigarettes. Yet, Walmart recently increased efforts to sell fewer firearms—raising the minimum purchasing age to 21— and discontinued the sale of ammunition for some types of firearms.

Most of the cigarettes and tobacco purchased every day in the U.S. are sold at gas stations and convenience stores. A little less than 15% of the total number of purchases took place at Walmart in 2020, WSJ says. Sam's Club, Walmart's big-box retailer, has gradually reduced the number of stores selling tobacco products to around 40 since 2018. Since then the company has been in a debate about Walmart selling them, with a few Democratic U.S. senators urging the company to stop selling all tobacco products, according to ReutersThere is no word about a specific date cigarettes won't be available at these select locations.

Meanwhile, the company is also facing a legal battle after suing another grocery chain for stealing new technology used by shoppers in stores.

Amanda McDonald
Amanda has a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor's degree in digital journalism from Loyola University Chicago. Read more about Amanda