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Nearly a year after Harmons removed tobacco products from all its grocery stores, the company is receiving recognition from community health organizations. On Friday, the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Utah (CTFU) recognized Harmons for removing tobacco from stores, and in January the company received the Friend of Public Health award from the Weber-Morgan Health Department.
“At the end of the day, being a food purveyor, you’re really the cornerstone of someone’s health, because we recognize how important diet is,” said Bob Harmon, Harmons co-owner. “We’re really grateful to have that recognition. It has been a while [since the tobacco was removed]. We knew that we were making an impact, and even if it was just our piece of that it was important to be a good steward to the community and that is part of our values.”
Harmons began removing products from stores in June 2011 and was finished less than a year later. Harmon said the last three stores to be built — Station Park, Emigration and City Creek — were built tobacco free from the beginning.
“This proactive move, in the name of public health, shows real dedication and foresight by Harmons,” said Dr. Kevin Nelson, chair of CTFU. “We are encouraged by Harmons’ decision to remove tobacco products from stores and encourage other retailers to follow suit.”
Harmon said company leaders decided selling tobacco products was at odds with the company’s goal of providing healthy, quality food. Because of that disconnect, the company began preparing so that the loss of revenue from those sales wouldn’t negatively affect the company and employees.
The stores started using the space tobacco once occupied to expand other services and products like postal service and specialty foods for those with food allergies, Harmon said.
Employees also participate in a wellness plan, he said, and selling tobacco was at odds with the message the company wanted to send to its customers and 2,700 employees.
“When we are recognized like this, I think it makes a statement that we’re maybe making a difference and making an impact somewhere,” Harmon said. “To have that recognition is very gratifying.”