Amid growing concerns about the health hazards of vaping, Walmart announced on Friday that it would no longer be selling e-cigarettes at its U.S. stores, becoming the latest (and largest) major retailer in the country to ban their sales, along with others like Rite Aid, Dollar General and Costco.
Walmart says it will continue to sell the products until its supply runs dry, which could take a few months, but there’s no denying that when the biggest retail operation in the country makes a decision like this, there may be others who follow suit. The FDA and CDC have both recommended that until more concrete information about the potential risks of vaping is available, users refrain from using e-cigarettes or other vaporizers, including vapes that are designed for marijuana and THC consumption. It is unclear how many of the people who have reported vaping-related health issues were using bootleg cartridges versus how many used state or federally-regulated nicotine or THC cartridges.
Public health and anti-vaping advocates say the move is aimed at preventing teenagers from having easy access to e-cigarettes and other vaping products, but others wonder whether large-scale bans like Walmart's as well as states like New York and Michigan taking legislative action to ban sales of e-cigarettes will ultimately backfire and drive consumers who might otherwise buy their vapes or e-liquid from a regulated source back to the illegal market, thereby increasing their risk of buying a cartridge that hasn’t been tested for contaminants.
If you are a vaper, are you concerned about your ability to purchase your cartridges from a reputable dealer? Have you considered going back to the illegal market? Are you at all worried about the potential health risks? Join our live conversation at 866-893-5722.
John Maa, M.D., practicing general surgeon at Marin General Hospital outside San Francisco and past president of the San Francisco Marin Medical Society; he tweets @JohnMaaMD
Jacob Sullum, senior editor at Reason, where he writes about drug policy, and author of the books "Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use" (Tarcher/Penguin, 2004) and "For Your Own Good: The Anti-Smoking Crusade and the Tyranny of Public Health" (Free Press, 1998); he tweets @jacobsullum