Walmart said Friday that it will stop selling electronic cigarettes at its namesake stores and Sam’s Clubs in the U.S. following a string of mysterious illnesses and deaths related to vaping.
The largest retailer in the U.S., based in Bentonville, Ark., said that it will complete its exit from e-cigarettes after selling through its current inventory.
The move is due to “growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity” regarding vaping products, the company said in a statement.
U.S. President Donald Trump has proposed a federal ban on flavoured e-cigarettes and vaping products.
The move is not expected to have a direct effect on Canadian stores. In an emailed statement, spokesperson Felicia Fefer told CBC News that, while Walmart Canada does carry a “limited number of vaping accessories online,” it does not sell tobacco or e-cigarettes in stores.
Michigan banned the sale of flavoured e-cigarettes this week. A few local governments, including San Francisco, have passed bans on flavoured tobacco, while India banned the production, import and sale of electronic cigarettes earlier this week.
E-cigarettes represent a very small part of Walmart’s nicotine business, which also includes traditional cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and nicotine gum. But the vaping industry has come under increased scrutiny after the deaths and illnesses — along with a surge in underage e-cigarette use.
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 flavoured electronic nicotine delivery systems.
More than 500 people have been diagnosed with breathing illnesses after using e-cigarettes and other vaping devices, according to U.S. and Canadian health officials. Eight deaths have been reported in the U.S. but officials still have not identified the cause.
An Ontario teen was put on life support, officials said earlier this week, in what is believed to be Canada’s first vaping related illness while, separately, Health Canada told health-care professionals to inquire more directly about their patients’ vaping use. The teen has since been released from hospital.