Walgreens, Kroger to quit e-cigarette sales

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Walgreens, Kroger to quit e-cigarette sales

By David Salazar - 10/07/2019

The e-cigarette category at two big retailers is going up in smoke. Walgreens and Kroger on Monday issued separate statements hours apart outlining plans to exit the e-cigarette category. 

“We have made the decision to stop selling e-cigarette products at our stores nationwide as the CDC, FDA and other health officials continue to examine the issue,” Walgreens said in a statement. “This decision is also reflective of developing regulations in a growing number of states and municipalities.” The company did not offer a timeline, though a Walgreens spokesperson said "we plan to exit in an orderly manner."

Similarly, Kroger, which will stop all sales of e-cigs at its stores and fuel stations once it runs through its current inventory, said the move was “due to the mounting questions and increasingly complex regulatory environment associated with these products.”

Walgreens and Kroger join a growing group of retailers doing away with e-cig sales. At the end of September, Walmart announced plans to exit the category, and last week, Schnucks announced plans to stop selling all tobacco products. In April, as Rite Aid revamped its front-end approach, the Camp Hill, Pa.-based retailer did away with e-cigarettes as it worked to simultaneously minimize the footprint of tobacco. Rite Aid and Walgreens also unveiled a companywide policy restricting tobacco sales to shoppers older than 21 years old. CVS Pharmacy notably exited the tobacco category entirely in 2014. 

E-cigarettes have been the focus of Food and Drug Administration enforcement actions all year after a tobacco use report found a large uptick in vaping among teens. The regulatory rolled out its Youth Tobacco Prevention Plan in April. Most recently, Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar signaled that it would roll out a policy to remove all flavored e-cigarette products from shelves, including menthol and mint flavors. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that as of Oct. 1, there have 1,90 lung injury cases associated with vaping products in 48 states and one U.S. territory, with 18 confirmed deaths in 15 states. The CDC did note that in most patients report a history of use of vaping products containing THC, and that national and regional findings suggest THC-containing products play a role in the outbreak.