WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Walmart Inc (WMT.N) told staff on Friday it was discontinuing the sale of e-cigarettes and electronic nicotine delivery products at its U.S. stores.
FILE PHOTO: Walmart’s logo is seen outside one of the stores in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., November 20, 2018. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski
In an internal memo seen by Reuters, the retailer said growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity and uncertainty were behind its decision.
“We will complete our exit after selling through current inventory,” the company said.
The growing crackdown on e-cigarettes comes on the heels of bans on sales of flavored vaping products in New York and Michigan and after the Trump administration last week announced plans to remove all flavored e-cigarettes from store shelves, as officials warned that sweet flavors had drawn millions of children into nicotine addiction.
President Donald Trump and other top U.S. officials also expressed concern about surging teenage use of e-cigarettes at a time when health officials are investigating hundreds of reports of vaping-related lung disease and some deaths.
One possible culprit identified so far is a line of illicit marijuana vape products sold under the brand names “Dank Vapes” and “Chronic Carts.”
The New York State Department of Health identified “Dank Vapes” and “Chronic Carts” as products containing Vitamin E acetate, a thickening agent in THC oil that has been a focus in its investigation into the illnesses.
Leading makers of nicotine e-cigarettes, including Juul Labs Inc, British American Tobacco Plc (BATS.L) and Imperial Brands Plc (IMB.L), said last week their products did not contain Vitamin E compounds.
Last week Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) said it took down vape paraphernalia in line with its policies, though the company did not specify the exact products it removed.
In May, Walmart raised the minimum age to purchase tobacco products to 21 in all its stores and said it would stop selling fruit-flavored e-cigarettes. The move came after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration called out the company for illegally selling tobacco products to minors.
Walmart shares were little changed after being higher than less than 1%. Shares of Altria Group Inc (MO.N) were up 1.3%.
Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Tom Brown