Walmart says it will stop selling electronic cigarettes, at namesake stores and Sam’s Club locations. The nation’s largest retailer is responding to growing health concerns around vaping, especially among young people.
Walmart cited “growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity and uncertainty regarding e-cigarettes,” saying that its stores will stop selling e-cigarettes once the current inventory is sold.
Just on Thursday, U.S. health officials said there are now 530 confirmed or probable cases of lung injury associated with vaping, a jump from 380 cases reported last week. Eight people have died.
As NPR previously reported, vaping products originally were welcomed by many people as a potentially safer alternative to cigarettes. And while millions of adults have switched from cigarettes, vaping has also attracted a new generation of nicotine addicts.
Between 2017 and 2019 vaping jumped dramatically among high school students, doubling from 11% to 25% of 12th-graders, according to a report out Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The Trump administration has moved toward banning flavored vaping products, and similar bans are already in place in the states of New York and Michigan.
Earlier this year, Walmart told regulators that it would raise the minimum age for buying tobacco products to 21 and that it would stop selling fruit- and dessert-flavored e-cigarettes. Vaping products are only a part of Walmart’s tobacco offerings, which include cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.
Pharmacy chains Rite Aid and Walgreens this year also raised the tobacco-buying age to 21. Rite Aid said in April that it would stop selling e-cigarettes and vaping products. CVS stopped selling all tobacco products in 2014.
Major media companies like CBS and CNN, for their part, have said they would stop airing commercials by e-cigarette companies like Juul. U.S. regulators and lawmakers in Congress are looking into Juul and its advertising practices. Next week, the House of Representatives will hold hearings on health impacts of vaping.
Editor’s note: Walmart is one of NPR’s recent financial supporters.