Smokers who shop at Wegmans will soon have to go elsewhere for cigarettes.
The grocery chain announced that it will stop carrying all tobacco products as of Feb. 10. Between now and then, the stores will sell off their remaining inventory. If they sell out before Feb. 10, more will not be ordered. The decision affects cigarettes, snuff and all other tobacco products.
The decision came from Daniel and Colleen Wegman, the company’s CEO and president, respectively. In a letter to their employees, the Wegmans said they are undertaking the move in the interest of their employees’ health.
“As a company, we respect a person’s right to smoke,” the letter stated. “But we also understand the destructive role smoking plays in health.”
Ann Hyatt, consumer affairs manager for the chain’s Syracuse division, which includes the three stores in Liverpool, said the decision was one that Wegmans founder, the late Robert Wegman, had pushed for.
“He didn’t like selling cigarettes,” Hyatt said. “He had expressed an interest in stopping that before he passed on. His son and granddaughter decided now was the time to do it.”
Hyatt said that Wegmans has never accepted promotional money from tobacco vendors.
Hyatt also noted that, while the company has received some criticism, most of the customer feedback has been positive.
“The response has been very favorable,” she said. “In fact, this morning, a call came in from an oncologist in New Zealand [commending us for the decision].”
Hyatt said the unfavorable responses have alleged that the company is making a moral judgment in its determination to stop selling tobacco, but that’s not the case at all.
“In no way are we making a moral judgment,” she said. “But we are making a health judgment in the interest of our employees, especially since we employ so many kids and high schoolers.”
In addition, the grocer will be offering free smoking cessation sessions for its employees.
“We’re just trying to look out for the health of our employees,” Hyatt said.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.