Valley City’s Family Dollar store may be one of many across the country that will sell tobacco products. Family Dollar media representative Josh Braverman said the move is strictly due to customer demand.
“We are already selling cigarettes in some stores,” Braverman said.
Barnes County Tobacco Prevention coordinator Vicki Voldal Rosenau wrote a letter to the company’s CEO Howard Levine, and Executive Administrators asking them to reconsider the move. Rosenau’s letter came after she was contacted by a company representative asking her how to get a tobacco license in Valley City. The letter was written on behalf of the City-County Health District and discussed at the CCHD Board meeting on Tuesday.
“I think it’s interesting that they contact the anti-tobacco lady to find out how to sell tobacco in their store,” said County Commissioner and board member Cindy Schwehr.
In the letter, Rosenau addressed the fact that Family Dollar’s mission statement includes phrasing that the company seeks to improve the quality of life of its customers.
“If you should choose to increase Valley City’s number of cigarette outlets you would betray your stated goal by degrading, rather than improving, the quality of life in this small town,” she wrote.
Rosenau also pointed to a recent Surgeon General’s report entitled “Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults,” which found that young people are more likely to smoke with increased tobacco marketing in retail outlets.
“The more prevalent cigarette marketing is in a community, the more ‘normal’ tobacco use becomes in the eyes of children and teens. This increased normalizing makes cigarettes more attractive to youngsters and more difficult for current users to quit,” wrote Rosenau.
Sharon Buhr, director of the Young People’s Healthy Heart program at Mercy Hospital and CCHD Board chair called the move “sad.”
“It has to be such an incredible money maker if they’re going that way,” she said.
Family Dollar recently reported 17 consecutive quarters of double-digit earnings growth. Sales have increased 9.8 percent to $2.36 million, and gross profits have increased 8.4 percent to $845.3 since this time last year. The company is working to open 450 to 500 new stores during this fiscal year.
“We delivered these record results even as we launched multiple initiatives late in the quarter to increase our relevancy to the customer,” said Levine in a news release.
“We began to implement a number of initiatives to broaden our consumable assortment and satisfy more of our customers shopping trips.”
Meanwhile, the CCHD will address the City Commission to suggest limiting the number of tobacco licenses, which the city does for liquor licenses.