Costco Wholesale will stop selling tobacco products June 1 at the sole Puget Sound area warehouse that still carries them, its Fourth Avenue South location.
The decision comes amid rising pressure by authorities around the country for large retailers to follow CVS Caremark’s move to stop selling cigarettes for health reasons.
But Costco Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti says the move to take tobacco out of the Seattle warehouse is “more of a business decision,” because very few individual customers buy cigarettes at Costco.
Two Costco Business Centers in Lynnwood and Fife will continue to sell cigarettes. Small-business owners account for about 90 percent of tobacco sales at Costco.
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Costco has gradually removed tobacco products from approximately half of its U.S. locations. In Washington state, only 9 out of 29 sell tobacco products.
In March, 28 of the nation’s attorneys general, including Washington A.G. Bob Ferguson, wrote to five of the biggest health-products retailers in the country, urging them to follow CVS and pull tobacco products from their shelves.
The reasoning was that selling health and tobacco products at the same time sent a “mixed message” to consumers, according to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The letters went out to Wal-Mart, Walgreen, Rite-Aid, Safeway and Kroger. Costco, which is also a big seller of pharmacy products, wasn’t on that list.
In Everett, Mass., one of the first cities in the U.S. that banned the sale of tobacco products at pharmacies, Costco gained an exemption to sell tobacco products to members who are licensed vendors.
Ángel González: 206-464-2250 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @gonzalezseattle