Two major retailers say they will no longer sell e-cigarettes in the U.S. amid mounting health questions surrounding vaping and growing White House criticism of the nascent industry.
Supermarket chain Kroger and drugstore chain Walgreens announced Monday that they would discontinue sales of e-cigarettes at their stores nationwide, citing an uncertain regulatory environment.
The vaping industry has come under scrutiny after hundreds of people have fallen ill and at least eight have died after using vaping devices.
Federal health officials have called the trend an “epidemic,” and fear teenagers who vape will eventually start smoking. In September, the Trump administration proposed a ban on e-cigarette flavorings.
In a speech Monday, First Lady Melania Trump said companies “must stop” marketing e-cigarettes to children, saying they are addictive and dangerous. She promotes an anti-drug message through the “Be Best” youth initiative she launched in May 2018.
“It is important to me that we all work to educate children and families about the dangers associated with this habit,” the first lady said. “Marketing this addictive product to children must stop.”
Marketing tobacco products to children is already prohibited in the United States, and Juul Labs Inc., the nation’s largest maker of electronic cigarettes, has said it will cease advertising them in the U.S. Juul has pledged it will not lobby against the Trump administration’s planned flavor ban.
Walmart announced last month that it would stop selling e-cigarettes at its stores nationwide.
Kroger said it would stop selling e-cigarettes as soon as its current inventory runs out at its more than 2,700 stores and 1,500 fuel centers. The Cincinnati-based company operates Ralphs, Harris Teeter and other stores.
Walgreens, based in Deerfield, Ill., operates more than 9,500 stores in the U.S.