Skip to main content
News Article News Article

Who sells cigarettes? The tobacco-free status of major retailers

When retailers remove tobacco from their shelves, they are helping to prevent young people from starting smoking and supporting smokers who are trying to quit.

That’s because exposure to tobacco companies’ retail marketing—such as offering promotions and discounts for cigarettes and displaying them at eye level, behind check-out counters—is linked to impulse purchases, an increased likelihood of young people starting to smoke, and decreased success for people attempting to quit. An estimated one-third of teenage experimentation with smoking can be directly attributed to tobacco advertising and promotional activities in retail environments.

Pharmacies are the focus of a new truth® and campaign called, Take Back the Shelves.  The campaign is urging all pharmacies to remove tobacco products from their shelves by enlisting young people to draw and submit the types of items they think belong behind pharmacy checkout counters in place of tobacco products. The artwork will then be posted to social media with a pharmacy tag and the hashtag #TakeBackTheShelves, in an effort to put pressure on pharmacies to remove tobacco from their shelves.

In 2016, the number of U.S. pharmacies selling tobacco totaled almost 54,000. Sixty-six percent of U.S. adults, and nearly half of smokers, favor a ban on tobacco products in pharmacy stores.

In 2008, San Francisco became the first city to ban tobacco sales in pharmacies. More than 125 cities and towns in Massachusetts have implemented a similar policy. There are also many independent pharmacies that have stopped selling tobacco.

See which of these five major retailers have tobacco-free inventories and which still need to kick tobacco off their shelves.

Does Target sell cigarettes?

No. Target stopped selling tobacco products in 1996, making it the first large retail chain to eliminate the sale of tobacco from their stores.


No. CVS removed cigarettes, and all other tobacco products, from their 7,600 stores across the country in 2014, stating that the “sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose—helping people on their path to better health.” A year later, CVS reported that cigarette purchases dropped a percentage point in states where the company has a large presence. That amounted to 95 million fewer packs of cigarettes sold in those states in one year.

How about Walgreens?

Yes, Walgreens sells tobacco products. However, a group of the company’s shareholders recently filed a resolution to remove cigarettes, and other tobacco products, from the drug store chain. The resolution has not yet appeared for a vote.


Yes. After CVS moved to get rid of tobacco in 2014, Walmart maintained they would not remove cigarettes from shelves at their 4,000-plus stores, most of which include pharmacies. Walmart also offers in-store healthcare clinics at many of their stores.

Rite Aid?

Yes. Rite Aid continues to sell tobacco and may soon merge with Walgreens.