Walmart to quit selling e-cigarettes amid vaping backlash

FILE — In this Sept. 3, 2019 file photo, a Walmart logo is displayed outside of a Walmart store, in Walpole, Mass. Walmart says it will stop selling electronic cigarettes at its namesake stores and Sam’s Clubs following a string of illnesses and deaths related to vaping. The nation’s largest retailer said Friday, Sept. 20 that it will complete its exit from e-cigarettes after selling through current inventory. It cited growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity regarding vaping products.

NEW YORK — 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.

The nation’s largest retailer 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.

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 flavored e-cigarettes and vaping products. Michigan banned the sale of flavored 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.