January 22, 2008

Wegmans to End Sale Of Cigarettes in Stores

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Wegmans recently announced that it would no longer carry tobacco products in an attempt to stop cigarettes from appearing as a grocery staple, especially for the sake of children.
Next to the cigarettes, which reside behind a counter, a sign reads:
“Beginning Feb. 10 we will no longer sell cigarettes and other tobacco products. Between now and then, remaining inventory will be sold, and some brands are likely to be out of stock. We have come to this decision after thinking about the role smoking plays in peoples’ health.”
Wegmans is not alone in its commitment to stop selling tobacco products. Target has not sold any tobacco products since 1996, and many health food grocery stores have never sold any tobacco products.
Sarah Shurpin ’08, president of Colleges Against Cancer, said she believes that Wegmans could be an example for other grocery stores to pull tobacco off their shelves.
“If you take tobacco products out of that environment it creates one more barrier to obtaining such products,” she said. “Initially I do not think it will have a direct impact, but over time it may create a chain reaction among other distributors of tobacco products. Overall removing these products makes it more challenging for people to obtain.”
Wegmans issued a letter to all of its employees about the decision stating, “We certainly respect a person’s right to smoke, but we believe there are few of us who would introduce our children to smoking. The main reason we have come to this decision is that we truly care about each of you.”
Shurpin agreed that there is a strong correlation between parents buying cigarettes and children smoking.
“Children learn many of their lifestyle habits from their parents, both healthy and unhealthy,” she said. “Parents create an environment for their child that displays foods and choices that they view as acceptable and those they do not. The fact that these products are sold with other items that are used every day may give the point of view that this too is acceptable like a lot of the other products. There is a chance that selling tobacco products along with the other food may send a message to children.”
The letter issued to Wegmans employees, written by Danny and Colleen Wegman, continued on to state, “For those of you who smoke, we know it is very difficult to stop. That is why, in 2008, we will be introducing a program to help you quit. We feel this is an important part of our commitment to helping you live a healthier, better life.”
According to Jo Natale, Wegmans director of media relations, a third party will be hired to help any employee who voluntarily wants to quit smoking.[img_assist|nid=26731|title=Putting out the fire|desc=Wegmans plans to stop selling cigarettes across its entire chain this February.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“Wegmans will additionally pay for any smoking cessation products employees would use during the process,” Natale said. “These products, like Nicotine gum and patches, would supplement online and phone support for those who wish to quit smoking. “
The public has commented on Wegmans decision, Natale said, and the positive comments outnumbered the negative six to one.
“Some complaints were from those who smoke about the lack of convenience,” Natale said.
Molly Burm, an Ithaca resident and a smoker, as well as a former Wegmans employee, said that the decision did not affect her.
“I don’t usually buy here because they are way too expensive,” Burm said.
Natale said that another complaint she received was that some customers think it is contradictory for Wegmans to carry alcohol and fatty foods, which also cause health problems.
“Alcohol and rich foods can be enjoyed in moderation, the same cannot be said about cigarettes,” Natale said.
Shurpin also noted the difference between the harms of alcohol and tobacco.
“The difference I see in selling alcohol and tobacco products is the direct relationship between tobacco and lung cancer. Drinking alcohol in moderation is not seen to have as drastic of an effect or direct relationship as smoking. Another issue is that of second hand smoke. When individuals smoke they also are creating many potential health problems to those around them,” she said.
Wegmans has no plans to remove the other controversial products, only tobacco products.