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Wegmans: Up in Smoke

It’s one of the obvious ironies retailers need to resolve if they want to honestly project an image of authenticity. Why do stores offering health and wellness products also sell items that have a proven track record of killing people?

We’re talking about tobacco, and so was Wegmans Food Markets when it announced earlier this week that it will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products in all 71 stores as of Feb. 10. According to a brief in The Buffalo (N.Y.) News, the retailer will allow current inventory to sell out until then.

People can argue that the job of any retailer is to offer variety and choice — not to be a meddlesome entity that edits consumer choice. True enough. But in the case of tobacco, it’s time the supermarket industry caught up with public policy, which has been banning smoking in all sorts of venues over the past 20 years.

Category sales are falling anyway, and stores operate under the constant threat of sting operations testing prohibitions on sales to minors. Who needs the headache?