CHICAGO — Drugstore giant Walgreens has become the latest retailer to pull electronic cigarettes from its stores in response to recent statements from federal and state health officials regarding the safety of the devices.
The Deerfield, Ill.-based retailer joins similar decisions from the likes of big-box merchant Walmart, and more recently grocery chains Kroger and Schnucks, the latter of which recently dropped the tobacco category altogether. The decision comes just a few days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made public statements concerning vaping and ongoing studies potentially linking multiple illnesses and up to 18 deaths to the devices.
“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,” a Walgreens spokesperson said in a statement. “This decision is also reflective of developing regulations in a growing number of states and municipalities.”
Cincinnati-based Kroger, a grocer with about 2,800 locations in 35 states, announced earlier this month that it would stop selling vaping productsdue “to the mounting questions and increasingly complex regulatory environment.”
However, the chain, which owns Harris Teeter, Ralphs, Fred Meyer and other store brands, will continue to sell tobacco products, CSP sister brand Winsight Grocery Business reported.
St. Louis-based Schnuck Markets announced that beginning Jan. 1, 2020, it would cease sale of all tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, chewing tobacco and snuff, Winsight Grocery Business reported. The supermarket chain plans to sell its existing inventory through the end of the year.
“Unlike many other products, there is simply no moderate amount of tobacco use that is not harmful,” company officials said.
In September, big-box retailer Walmart announced it would stop selling vaping products at its roughly 5,000 U.S. locations. The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer said, “Given the growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity and uncertainty regarding e-cigarettes, we plan to discontinue the sale of electronic nicotine delivery products at all Walmart and Sam’s Club U.S. locations. We will complete our exit after selling through current inventory.”
The big-box retailer had made major decisions about the tobacco category in recent months. In May, Walmart officials announced it would stop selling fruit- and dessert-flavored e-cigarettes. In the same statement, the chain said it would also raise the buying age of tobacco products from the federal minimum of 18 to 21 at its locations.
Earlier in April, Both Walgreens and Rite Aid, Camp Hill, Pa., raised their minimum tobacco buying age to 21 in that same time frame.
One of the first major retailers to make opt out of the category entirely, CVS Caremark, Woonsocket, R.I., pulled tobacco products from its stores in 2014. At the time, the move was expected to cost the drug giant $2 billion in revenues, but CVS had struggled with its own mission to promote health while selling products possibly tied to illnesses.
At the time, officials said, “The sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose. … Removing tobacco products from our retail shelves further distinguishes us in how we are serving our patients, clients and healthcare providers and better positions us for continued growth in the evolving healthcare marketplace.”