At American retailer Walmart, you can buy alcohol, guns and regular old tobacco. But as of today, Americans won’t find the mega-retailer stocking e-cigarettes on its shelves.
“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. We will complete our exit after selling through current inventory,” Walmart said in an emailed statement.
The decision isn’t entirely surprising. So far, the U.S. Centre for Disease Control has confirmed eight deaths related to vaping, and as of September 18, 530 confirmed and probable cases of lung injury. Meanwhile, both the CDC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration are conducting their own investigations into the matter.
In addition to health agencies, U.S. politicians have also been quick to jump on “ban vapes” train. Last week, Donald Trump stated that the White House was considering a ban on flavoured e-cigarettes. Earlier on Wednesday, the New York State Department of Health approved an emergency ban on all non-tobacco or menthol-flavoured vaping products.
Michigan was the first state to ban flavoyred vapes earlier this month, while San Francisco banned them back in June. Walmart’s decision is unique in that it’s banning all e-cigarettes, not just flavoured ones.
No one is denying that kids should lay off the vape juice. But it is odd that Walmart is selectively choosing to take a stand against e-cigarettes when you can still buy traditional tobacco products. It wasn’t until July that Walmart finally made banned the sale of regular cigarettes to people under the age of 21, despite you know, decades worth of medical literature providing a litany of reasons to do so.
To be fair, vaping is under-studied and scientists haven’t come to a consensus on what kind of harmful effects can accompany the use of e-cig products. We still don’t know what is causing the string of deaths that have been linked to vaping in the last few weeks. But we certainly know what tobacco can do. It’s the number one cause of preventable death.
Gizmodo reached out to Walmart for a comment as to why it chooses to continue selling tobacco in light of the total e-cigarette ban, but did not receive a response.
This isn’t the first time Walmart has removed products from sale in light of rising public concern. Gun sales, for example, have been much more restrictive after the increase in mass shootings. That said, despite the tragic shooting at an El Paso Walmart in August, the retailer said it was not considering ending firearm sales and even retaliated against an employee who tried organising a walkout over the issue.
It ultimately did announce it would drastically cut back on ammunition sales and requested customers in open-carry states refrain from doing so.