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Rite Aid, other pharmacies pressured to stop selling tobacco

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Camp Hill-based Rite Aid is one of several pharmacies targeted by a coalition, led by the state attorneys general of New York and Ohio,, that is asking the businesses to stop selling tobacco products.

Taking a cue from CVS Caremark, which in February announced it would no longer sell tobacco products, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine made the push for others to follow suit, according to a news release. They are leading a coalition of attorneys general from 28 states and territories.

In addition to Rite Aid, the attorneys general also have written letters to Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Safeway and Kroger, asking them to remove tobacco products from their shelves. In addition, 32 attorneys general have commended CVS.

"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 in the news release. "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."

In an email, Rite Aid spokeswoman Ashley Flower said, "We appreciate that the Attorneys General took the time to share their views. We are always evaluating options and programs for our stores and our customers. Rite Aid offers a wide variety of smoking cessation products and provides additional resources, including our pharmacists, who are available to counsel people trying to stop smoking."

Tobacco-related disease is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, causing more than 480,000 deaths in the last year alone — more than AIDS, alcohol, illegal drug use, car accidents and firearm-related deaths combined, according to information from Schneiderman's office.

Health care costs and productivity losses attributable to smoking cost the nation at least $289 billion each year, according to Schneiderman's office.

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