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.
The shift comes after years of internal debate at Walmart about cigarettes, which U.S. health officials say are linked to 480,000 deaths in the country each year and which are complex for big-box retailers to sell because of regulations. Top Walmart executives decided to start moving out of the category in some locations before the Covid-19 pandemic, some of the people said, a decision now playing out in stores.
An expanded version of this report appears at WSJ.com.
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