Walmart to quit selling e-cigarettes amid vaping backlash

U.S.’s largest retailer points to ‘growing’ complications in federal, state and local regulations

In this Sept. 3, 2019 file photo, a Walmart logo is displayed outside of a Walmart store, in Walpole, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

Walmart is getting out of the vaping business.

The nation’s largest retailer said Friday that it will stop selling electronic cigarettes at its namesake stores and Sam’s Clubs in the U.S. when it sells out its current inventory.

It said the move is due to “growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity” regarding vaping products. It also comes after several hundred people have mysteriously fallen ill after vaping, and eight have died.

Walmart’s decision is the latest blow to the vaping industry, which has tried to position its products as healthier alternatives to smoking cigarettes, which are responsible for 480,000 deaths a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

READ MORE: MLA calls on province to restrict vaping as first related illness appears in Canada

But the industry has come under increased scrutiny after the deaths and illnesses — along with a surge in underage vaping.

President Donald Trump has proposed a federal ban on flavoured e-cigarettes and vaping products. Michigan banned the sale of flavoured e-cigarettes this week. In June, San Francisco became the first major U.S. city to ban the sale of electronic cigarettes.

The bulk of e-cigarettes are sold through vape shops, which number about 115,000 nationwide, with additional outlets including drug stores, grocery stores and tobacco outlets, industry experts say.

E-cigarettes represent a very small part of Walmart’s nicotine business, which also includes traditional cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and nicotine gum, so the impact on the retailer will be small.

But, it will be difficult for vaping companies to replace that access to shoppers given Walmart’s size, said Greg Portell, global lead partner in the consumer and retail practice of A.T. Kearney, a strategy and management consulting firm. Walmart operates more than 5,000 stores under its namesake and Sam’s Club in the U.S.

“Walmart’s size and scale makes their decisions about what products to carry meaningful for the impacted products,” Portell said. “Vaping companies will be especially challenged given the lack of direct consumer access.”

The Vapor Technology Association, a trade group, was quick to slam Walmart’s move against vaping products while keeping cigarettes on its shelves.

“The fact that Walmart is reducing access for adult smokers to regulated vapour products while continuing to sell combustible cigarettes is irresponsible,” Tony Abboud, executive director of the association, said in a statement. “This will drive former adult smokers to purchase more cigarettes.”

More than 500 people have been diagnosed with breathing illnesses after using e-cigarettes and other vaping devices, according to U.S. health officials. An eighth death was reported this week. But health officials still have not identified the cause.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Penticton RCMP seeking suspect of vandalism to Chinese place of gathering

RCMP are investigating a reported incidence of vandalism after an alleged racially-motivated attack

Campaign promotes Syilx/Okanagan language and culture

To support initiative, Nsylixcen t-shirts and water bottles are being distributed across Okanagan

Penticton bylaw officers tear down homeless man’s camp

Bylaw had “serious” safety and fire concerns about the dwelling in the Skaha Lake parking lot.

Interior Health leading the way with innovative therapy for stroke patients

Percentage of ischemic stroke patients who received treatment has risen dramatically

VIDEO: Wet’suwet’en supporters vow to keep protesting at B.C. legislature

Supporters say they will continue ongoing action to hold government accountable

VIDEO: Province promotes ‘lifting each other up’ on 13th annual Pink Shirt Day

Students, MLAs, community members gathered at B.C. Parliament Buildings Wednesday

Prepare for new coronavirus like an emergency, health minister advises

About 81,000 people around the world have now become ill with COVID-19

B.C. residents in Wet’suwet’en territory have right to police presence: Public Safety Minister

Nevertheless, Bill Blair said officials remain ‘very anxious’ for the barricades to come down

Winnipeg police investigating graffiti on RCMP and other buildings

Manitoba Justice Minister Cliff Cullen denounced the vandalism

COLUMN: Extending Employment Insurance sickness benefits

One of the challenges, with so many different events occurring in Ottawa,… Continue reading

B.C. seniors’ watchdog calls for better oversight after recent problems at Retirement Concepts care homes

‘There is no financial incentive right now to be a good operator’ - Isobel Mackenzie

Volunteers share amazing memories of Vancouver Olympic games

A decade ago this month, Vancouver hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics. Approximately… Continue reading

Trucking company fined $175K for Kootenay creek fuel spill

Decision handed down last Friday in Nelson court

Most Read