(Reuters) – Kroger Co and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc said on Monday they would stop selling e-cigarettes at their stores, amid heightened regulatory scrutiny of the product and reports of lung disease and some deaths linked to vaping.

Their move comes weeks after Walmart Inc said it was pulling the plug on e-cigarette sales, citing growing federal, state and local regulatory complexity and uncertainty.

E-cigarettes and other vaping products have been linked to a mysterious lung illness that is reported to have led to 18 deaths as of last week, with the number of confirmed and probable cases of the condition exceeding 1,000, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Kroger said it would discontinue sales of e-cigarettes at its stores and fuel centers after selling through its current inventory.

Walgreens said it had decided to stop selling e-cigarette products at its U.S. stores as the CDC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other health officials continue to examine the issue.

The drugstore chain, which earlier this year set a minimum age to sell tobacco products at 21 years, said the decision was also reflective of developing regulations in a growing number of states and municipalities.

New York and Michigan have already banned the sales of flavored vaping products, while the Trump administration has 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.

Kroger operates more than 2,700 stores, including over 1,500 fuel stations, while Walgreens runs nearly 10,000 drugstores in the United States.


Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru and Richa Naidu in Chicago; Editing by Anil D’Silva


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