A popular local grocery chain that caters largely to Latino customers has stopped selling tobacco products in its stores in Fresno and other towns in the Valley.
Vallarta Supermarkets’ decision makes it the first and largest grocer in California to stop smoking.
Anti-tobacco lawyer Rosendo Iniguez, spokesperson for the Latino Coordinating Center, said he was very happy with the decision.
“Their decision should be celebrated, should be commended and should be applauded,” Iniguez said. “We hope this will encourage other grocery stores to do the same.”
So far, 14 Vallarta stores, from Bakersfield to Merced, have excluded tobacco products from their shelves, Iniguez said. Vallarta is committed to eventually removing tobacco products from its 34 stores across the state, he added.
Leading cause of death among Latinos
Iniguez said the supermarket company’s goal is to promote better health in the communities it serves.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, four of the top five causes of death among Latinos — cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes — are linked to smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke.
The Latino Coordinating Center said in a press release that Vallarta’s decision would encourage many Latino adult tobacco users to quit and reduce tobacco use by young Latinos. The organization promotes tobacco-free policies.
Results of a recent survey of smoking in California schools showed that 8% of young Latinos currently use tobacco products, of which more than 90% use flavored tobacco products.
“Grocers should not depend on revenue from the sale of tobacco products that are harmful to the health of their customers,” the LLC’s statement said. “We commend Vallarta Supermarkets for taking a step forward to improve the health of the communities they serve.