Walmart said on Friday, Sept. 20 that it will discontinue sales of electronic cigarettes at its stores and Sam’s Clubs across the United States. This comes as federal agencies probe into a series of illnesses and deaths that are possibly linked to vaping.
“Given the growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity and uncertainty regarding e-cigarettes, we plan to discontinue the sale of electronic nicotine delivery products at all Walmart and Sam’s Club U.S. locations,” the retailer said in a statement sent to media outlets. “We will complete our exit after selling through current inventory.”
President Donald Trump said last week that his administration would propose a federal ban on flavored e-cigarettes and vaping products to combat a recent surge in underage vaping.
“Currently, about 8 million adults use e-cigarettes, but 5 million children are using e-cigarettes,” he told reporters at the Oval Office. “This is exceptionally harmful to our children. An entire generation of children risk becoming addicted to nicotine because of the attractiveness, appeal-ability, and availability of these vaping products.”
Federal officials said Thursday that more than 500 people have had lung injuries after using e-cigarettes and other vaping devices. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it had launched a criminal probe into the situation.
“We are in desperate need of facts,” Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, told reporters in a phone call.
So far there have been seven vaping-related deaths while an eighth case has been reported in Illinois but has not been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
According to the CDC, nearly three-quarters of the cases are male and two-thirds are 18 to 34 years old.
“We do not yet know the specific cause of these lung injuries. The investigation has not identified any specific e-cigarette or vaping product (devices, liquids, refill pods, and/or cartridges) or substance that is linked to all cases,” the agency said on its website.
Meanwhile, Walmart’s announcement has been criticized by the American Vaping Association, who called it a “predictable move at a time of massive misguided fears.”
E-cigarettes represent a very small part of Walmart’s nicotine business, which also includes traditional cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and nicotine gum.
In July, Walmart raised the minimum age to purchase tobacco products, including all e-cigarettes, to 21. It also said then that it was in the process of discontinuing the sale of fruit- and dessert-flavored electronic nicotine delivery systems.
Epoch Times reporter Zachary Stieber and The Associated Press contributed to this report.