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Campaign Aims To Get Tobacco Products Off Retailers' Shelves

Eight months after retail chain CVS vowed to stop selling tobacco products, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) is encouraging other retailers to follow suit.

In a national initiative launched today, the CTFK is asking an estimated 375,000 retailers in the United States to halt their sales of tobacco, which is the leading cause of preventable death in the country.

The campaign also wants shoppers to give their business to stores like CVS that don’t sell tobacco products.

“It sends a terrible message to kids when you have 375,000 retail stores across the country that sell tobacco products,” said Vince Willmore, vice president of communications for the CTFK. “Many of these stores are plastered with advertising and discounts for tobacco products.”

Willmore said more than 20 national and regional chains have pledged to stop selling tobacco, including Target and Wegmans. In Pennsylvania, there are 58 stores that don’t sell cigarettes.

Though some retailers may be afraid of losing money, Willmore said halting tobacco sales is actually good for business.

“Any possible economic losses from not selling tobacco products will be more than offset by the support from the public and the willingness of the public to shop at retailers that are tobacco free,” Wilmore said.

There has been “a huge amount of progress in the past 20 years,” Willmore said, as the percentage of high school students who smoke cigarettes has dropped from 36 percent to less than 16 percent.

But there is still progress to be made. If the current trend continues, more than 5.6 million kids alive today will die prematurely from smoking, including 244,000 in Pennsylvania, according to the CTFK.  

The CTFK wants retailers to address this problem by being involved in the solution, Willmore said. The new initiative includes a social media campaign that allows users to tell their friends that they are tobacco-free shoppers.

“We are really hoping to ignite a movement of parents and others who care about preventing kids from smoking to shop tobacco free,” Wilmore said.

The CTFK also launched a new website, www.shoptobaccofree.org, that features an interactive map of where tobacco-free retailers are located.