Beginning in 2020, Schnucks Markets said it would no longer sell tobacco products at any of their stores. Some Webster students and staff are skeptical of Schnucks’ motive.
Schnucks Markets announced it will no longer sell tobacco products at any of their locations starting in 2020. Todd Schnuck, chairman and CEO of the supermarket chain, made the announcement in an October 2019 press release, saying tobacco does not coincide with the core mission of Schnucks.
‘Our company’s mission is to nourish people’s lives,’ Schnuck stated. ‘It’s the right thing to do for the health of our customers and that makes it the right thing for our company.’
Tobacco use is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the world, according to the World Health Organization. Schnucks’ announcement came just 18 days after CVS pharmacy ceased the sale of tobacco products.
Dustin Smith, assistant professor in Webster’s management department, said he believes this is a trend that will continue from many other corporations.
“Arguably, it’s a social good,” Smith said. “It is a product category that’s becoming less popular so it’s good PR. Years down the line I think we’ll see Walmart stop carrying tobacco products.”
Webster senior Zack Haryokusumo began smoking at age 13. Despite this, Haryokusumo said he thinks Schnucks’ decision to not sell tobacco is ultimately a good thing for society.
“It’d be inconvenient for me if the only place selling cigarettes was a smoke shop,” Haryokusumo said. “But Americans are lazy, so inconvenience is a deterrent [for smoking].”
Smith and Haryokusumo agreed Schnucks’ tobacco ban was a business decision, rather for the well-being of society.
“This may be the cynical side of me, but I don’t think that they would’ve stopped selling them if it was still profitable,” Smith said.
Smith said he thinks companies have begun to embrace the idea that appearing good in the public light is good for their bottom line.
Over the past year, Schnucks has shifted its brand toward a focus on wellness and healthier choices. The company has partnered with Pink Ribbon Girls, a nonprofit dedicated to delivering healthy meals to women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. Schnucks also partnered with gyms and created a wellness guide on its rewards app, all to encourage healthier choices.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking reached an all-time low of 13.7% in 2018. Smith and Haryokusumo both see this as a primary reason for Schnucks and other retailers’ to stop selling tobacco.
“These companies are only being health-conscious because that’s what’s ‘in’ right now,” Haryokusumo said, “which is good, but everything is a business decision.”
Haryokusumo believes tobacco companies and retailers have a duty to inform their customers on the dangers of smoking. He visits Indonesia regularly where the cigarette boxes are printed with pictures to deter smokers.
“Like on one, there is a picture of a dead child that was born with cancer because the mother smoked,” Haryokusumo said. “That may be overboard, but they’re doing the right thing.”
Schnucks’ press release insisted the decision to stop selling tobacco was for the well-being of their customers. This leads to the questions of other unhealthy products they will continue to sell such as alcohol, soda and junk food.
“They may have to confront the reality that people do view them hypocritically,” Smith said. “But alcohol is still a lucrative market. It’d be very hard for companies to get rid of alcohol or sugary snacks. I don’t want to cheapen what [Schnucks] did, but tobacco is the low-hanging fruit.”
Smith continued to say Schnucks had taken a good first step by offering healthier snack options. Schnucks will offer additional health and wellness incentives throughout 2020. Schnucks admitted the company still has more to do and plan to continue to promote the creation of a healthier generation.