20 years old? You can't buy cigarettes at Walmart anymore

Zoe Greszler • May 23, 2019 at 5:00 PM

Besides all of the visible changes in Walmart’s reorganization, shoppers also soon may realize some other changes. Perhaps the biggest change is in who will be allowed to buy tobacco products. 

Paving its own path in preventing underage tobacco use, the store recently announced its decision to discontinue certain types of tobacco products and to completely eliminate the sale of any tobacco product to customers under the age of 21. The Ohio minimum age requirement is 18.

The decision came after it received a rebuke from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The government agency performs annual checks to see if local businesses are compliant with federal laws as regards selling cigarettes and other harmful tobacco products.  Walmart recently received a hand-slap from the FDA after six percent of its stores failed these checks. The store wrote the FDA back, saying it failed to meet its organizational goal of 100-percent compliancy and noted they shared the FDA’s goal.

“Preventing the sale of tobacco products to minors is critical,” wrote Walmart’s chief ethics and compliance officer John Scudder in the letter, where he said the sale of any tobacco product to even one minor “is one too many.”

Scudder said the responsibility of the non-compliance is viewed “not as a cost of doing business but as a breach of trust with the customers and communities we serve.”

“Our sincere intent and hope are that the changes outlined in this letter will have a substantial public health impact by helping to keep tobacco products out of the hands of minors,” he added.  

The first of these changes is the gradual discontinuation of the forms of tobacco commonly popular among youth. Walmart soon will no longer carry or sell fruit- and dessert-flavored electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS).

Then, beginning July 1 no one younger than the age of 21 will be able to purchase tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, at any Walmart nationwide. 

As of April, store employees found to be in violation of the store’s codes face stronger disciplinary protocol. The resulting disciplinary action taken could be up to or include the employee’s termination. Workers will continue to regular submit to age-verification training and testing, as well as training and testing teaching the negative health effects of tobacco use.

These weren’t the only changes Walmart made for the betterment of the community.

Last month, the company also announced it will offer reusable shopping bags at the check-out carousels. The store said it hopes making the purchase of these bags easier and more convenient as it will be part of the bagging process, will encourage more shoppers to ditch earth-harming plastic bags. The reusable bags — made with post-consumer recycled content — will be located in “easy to find and highly frequented” sections of the store.

“The new reusable bag initiative will begin rolling out to stores (in May) and follows a recent announcement by Walmart on a series of plastic waste reduction goals that seek to advance the sustainability of the retailer’s private brand packaging by making it 100 percent recyclable, reusable or industrially compostable by 2025,” according to a statement issued by Walmart.

“Progress to date shows how companies can contribute to climate action through practical actions all along the product supply chain,” Walmart senior vice president Kathleen McLaughlin said.

“Ultimately, building sustainable supply chains requires collective action from everyone — not only our associates and suppliers, but customers, business in general, and civil society. We are excited to be part of the solution.”

In other business happenings...


'Hopefully we can make a difference'

For many, the whole first year of a child’s life is a joyful occasion. Todd Blumensaadt’s son, Will, though didn’t even make it that full year. He died just before his first birthday in June 2005 after losing his young battle with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).

Blumensaadt wasn’t going to allow his family’s loss be in vain though. Instead, he used that experience to fuel a desire to help find a cure for SMA, hoping to prevent other families from enduring the same grief. 

"Will's Day at the Bay" is held in memory of young Will Blumensaadt and will take place this year on June 12.

SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy) is a motor neuron disease that affects everyday functions such as walking, swallowing and breathing. About 1 in 11,000 babies are born with one of the four types of the disease, which vary in degrees of severity. It can be debilitating and, as in Will’s case, sometimes fatal in the children diagnosed with it.

Knowing the sad outcome that sometimes follows the diagnosis, Blumensaadt decided to use his business, Jet Express, as an avenue to raise awareness and funds for a cure.

"This is a really special event for myself and the whole Jet crew,” he said, referring to Will’s Day at the Bay. “By supporting research on this disease, hopefully we can make a difference for children and families who are suffering from Spinal Muscular Atrophy.”

On June 12, the Jet Express will have adult round-trip tickets from Port Clinton to Put-in-Bay available for a minimum donation of $10 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., or until 600 tickets have been sold. The Jet Bar will be offering a drink special that will go towards the event proceeds as well. There will also be a gift basket raffle to participate in.

The Jet Express will donate 70 percent of the proceeds to the nonprofit organization, Cure SMA, and Will's Playground at DeRivera Park in Put-in-Bay. Tickets must be purchased at the Port Clinton dock to qualify.


Shores & Islands meets with state

Lake Erie Shores & Islands President Larry Fletcher and vice president of operations Dawn Weinhardt joined colleagues from across the state May 7 for the 2019 Ohio Tourism Legislative Day.

The annual event held during National Travel and Tourism Week is designed to provide an opportunity for participants to meet with their individual elected representatives and other members of the Ohio legislature to discuss local and state tourism industry issues.

The Lake Erie Shores & Islands team held focused meetings with Sen. Theresa Gavarone and state Rep. Steve Arndt. Each has shown strong support for the tourism industry in the past and were very receptive to the information presented.

The group’s main focus this year was to advocate for increased funding for TourismOhio, the state’s marketing agency. Current funding for the office is about $10 million annually, which is $8 million below the national average, $13.5 million below Ohio’s main competitors and $25 million below what Michigan invests to promote tourism.

Ohio budget hearings and votes will take place over the next several weeks.

A natural segue from this event was to the May 8 Ohio Tourism Day on the grounds of the Statehouse. Lake Erie Shores & Islands joined 100 other visitor bureaus and attractions from across the state to showcase the powerful industry. Gov. Mike DeWine, director of the development services agency Lydia Mihalik, and TourismOhio chief Matt MacLaren all addressed the hundreds of guests who enjoyed the many exhibits.

In addition, TourismOhio used the event to release updated economic impact of tourism data showing that 222 million visits to Ohio in 2018 generated $46 billion in sales and supported 429,000 tourism-related jobs. The Lake Erie Shores & Islands region generates $2.1 billion in annual impact that supports more than 14,000 jobs.


Area woman named dep. director

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) named Bobbie Boyer, of Clyde, as deputy director of the office of prevention services. 

Boyer’s prevention experience spans more than 40 years. In her new role, she will be responsible for managing the department’s overall prevention efforts, which includes making sure programming is aligned with priorities established by the governor’s RecoveryOhio initiative and ensuring that proven age and environmentally appropriate education is provided to Ohio youth from kindergarten through 12th grade.


Vehicle sales continue slide

Franchised new vehicle dealers sold 21,193 new vehicles in April, eclipsing sales volume from April 2017, but falling short of sales figures from a very strong April of 2018.

Last year, dealers sold 22,133 new vehicles during the same month, according to figures released by the Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers’ Association (GCADA). While sales were strong last month, overall new vehicle sales volume was off 4.25 percent, when comparing last month with April of 2018.

“As expected, the new vehicle sales trend has slowed in the beginning of 2019. However, we are comparing last month’s sales to a very strong month in April of 2018, when sales had increased almost 9 percent,” GCADA President Louis Vitantonio said. “We are still seeing strong sales numbers in the Northern Ohio market, including used vehicle sales trending considerably higher.”

New vehicle sales are off 2.67 percent for the year to date though.

In terms of overall industry sales trends, sales of new trucks, SUVs and crossovers fell 7.23 percent when comparing April of this year with April of 2018. Sales in the segment are off 3 percent year-to-date.

Sales of new cars, including sedans and coupes, fared slightly better than their more rugged counterparts, with overall sales volume sliding 1.73 percent when comparing month-to-month figures. Sales in this market segment are off 2.38 percent for the year.

Chevrolet continued to dominate the Northern Ohio new vehicle marketplace, selling 3,148 in April, compared to 2,769 for its rival Ford. Honda rang up a sales increase of more than nine percent in the month to grab third and easily outdistance its offshore rival Toyota.

Fourteen brands that were in up in April when comparing 2019 sales over 2018, included: Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Fiat, Honda, Infiniti, Kia, Land Rover, Lincoln, Maserati, Nissan, Ram, Subaru and Tesla.

There were 13 brands posted sales increases through April of 2019: Acura, Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Audi, Fiat, Honda, Kia, Lincoln, Maserati, Ram, Subaru, Tesla and Volvo.


Crocker Park adds Market District

WESTLAKE — After a five-month renovation, Stark Enterprises welcomed Market District, formerly Giant Eagle, into The Promenade at Crocker Park.

Market District offers customers a well-equipped grocery store plus an array of amenities including an in-store bar, extensive and unique selections of meats, seafoods, cheeses, organic items and prepared food selections, full-service bank, pharmacy, Starbucks coffee shop and more.

“We are elated to welcome Market District to The Promenade at Crocker Park,” said Bob Stark, chief executive officer. “Their innovative concept to give customers a more unique and memorable experience at their Market District locations aligns perfectly with the values we have for anyone that walks onto Crocker Park. They truly are changing the way we think about grocery shopping, and we are excited to have them in Westlake."

Store hours are 6 a.m. to midnight daily, with special hours for various departments including the pharmacy, bank and floral area. For more information, visit www.marketdistrict.com or follow them on Facebook at @MarketDistrictWestlake.


If you have an item for the business roundup column, send the information to the Norwalk Reflector in care of Zoe Greszler, 61 E. Monroe St., Norwalk, Ohio 44857, or email it to [email protected]

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