COMPETITIVE WATCH:

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COMPETITIVE WATCH:

01/07/2008
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Grocery chain Wegmans Food Markets Inc. said Friday that as of Feb. 10, it would no longer carry cigarettes and other tobacco products. Until that date, only remaining inventory will be available in stores, with no new product ordered, reported Progressive Grocer, sister publication to Convenience Store News.

"As a company, we respect a person's right to smoke, but we also understand the destructive role smoking plays in health," Danny Wegman said in a company statement. Store signage informing shoppers of the decision is couched in similar terms.

A letter to employees from CEO Danny Wegman and his daughter Colleen, the company's president, said that Wegmans would offer a smoking-cessation program for associates. Director of media relations Jo Natale told Progressive Grocer that the program would roll out later this month, and that no details of it had been shared with employees yet.

Although it has declined in recent years, tobacco is still a "very profitable category," according to Natale, who didn't disclose specific numbers. Health concerns have trumped any profits, however, according to the retailer.