CVS was the first major chain to stop selling tobacco products. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News
Twenty-eight attorneys general from across the country, including New York state's Eric Schneiderman, asked five major national retailers to follow CVS Caremark's lead and stop selling tobacco products.
The leaders sent letters to executives at Wal-Mart, Rite-Aid, Safeway, Kroger and Walgreens, which also which operates the Duane Reade chain.
In a statement, Schneiderman wrote that pharmacies and drug stores "send a mixed message by continuing to sell deadly tobacco products."
"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," he added. "I urge these companies to do the right thing and remove tobacco products from store shelves."
City leaders also celebrated CVS's decision to end tobacco sales by Oct. 1. At the time, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer praised the pharmacy's "bold action."
Thanks to @CVS_Extra for taking bold action to improve public health & make vision of a #tobaccofree generation one step closer to reality — Scott M. Stringer (@scottmstringer) February 5, 2014
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who ushered in the city's smoking restrictions in 2002 and only last year signed off on bills raising the legal age to buy tobacco products to 21 and a ban on e-cigarettes indoors, called the chain's decision "a major milestone."
"Just as no responsible doctor would put a cigarette machine in the office lobby, no responsible pharmacy should put cigarettes behind the counter," Bloomberg said in a statement.
Larry J. Merlo, CVS Caremark's president and CEO, justified the decision as a means to focus on the chain's evolving role as a health care provider.
"Put simply, the sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose," Merlo said.