Sept. 20 (UPI) — Walmart announced Friday it will stop selling all e-cigarettes after health officials linked at least seven deaths and hundreds of illnesses to vaping products.
The company said its decision also applies to Sam’s Club locations in the United States.
“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,” Walmart said in a statement. “We will complete our exit after selling through current inventory.”
The announcement comes one day after the Food and Drug Administration revealed it launched a criminal investigation into suspected vaping-linked lung illnesses weeks ago.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday reported 530 confirmed or probable lung illnesses in 36 states — up from 380 on Sept. 12.
On Tuesday, a California man became the 7th person in the United States to die from the lung conditions.
“We are in desperate need of facts and answers to questions. The trained investigators in our of criminal investigations typically get involved in cases like this,” Mitch Zeller, who runs the Center for Tobacco Products at the FDA, told reporters on the call. “They have been involved from the beginning because they have unique skills that will help us all get answers to the questions we’re desperately seeking.”
Early testing has linked the illnesses to illicit marijuana vapor cartridges, but officials say they cannot rule out nicotine e-cigarettes as also playing.
In May, Walmart announced a plan to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco and e-cigarette products to 21 as an added measure to prevent the sale of the items to minors.