Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Monday joined New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in leading an effort to convince the largest pharmacy chains in the United States to stop selling tobacco products.
Led by DeWine and Schneiderman, the attorneys general of 28 states and territories have written to the CEOs of Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Rite-Aid, Safeway and Kroger, asking them to remove any and all tobacco products from their shelves. In addition, 32 Attorneys General have commended CVS Caremark for its recent decision to stop selling tobacco in its stores.
“My fellow attorneys general and I are asking these national retailers to take an additional step forward in keeping tobacco products away from youth by voluntarily not selling them in their stores with pharmacies,” DeWine said. “The health of our kids is just too important.”
“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,” Schneiderman said. “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.”
Tobacco-related disease is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, causing over 480,000 deaths in the last year alone – more than AIDS, alcohol, illegal drug use, car accidents and firearm-related deaths combined. Since 1965, over 20 million Americans have died prematurely as a result of smoking. The devastating health effects of these tobacco products have been well documented for over 50 years, since the 1964 Surgeon General’s report on the Health Consequences of Smoking.
Furthermore, health care costs and productivity losses attributable to smoking cost the nation at least $289 billion each year. Almost 90% of all adult smokers start smoking by 18 years of age. ‘Big Tobacco’ relies on getting young people addicted to cigarettes and keeping them as life-long smokers.
DeWine has a long record of protecting Ohio kids from underage tobacco use. He sponsored legislation granting the FDA authority over the marketing of tobacco products to kids when he was a U.S. Senator. As Ohio attorney general, he led a coalition of attorneys general who urged the FDA to regulate e-cigarettes. He has also supported legislation in the Ohio General Assembly to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to those under age 18. Gov. John Kasich recently signed this measure into law.
Ohio joined other states in suing the major tobacco companies for the harm their products caused. To resolve these lawsuits, the states entered into the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, the most significant public health agreement of our time.
Copies of the letters sent by the Attorneys General are available on the Ohio Attorney General's website.