Kroger is becoming the latest major retailer to stop selling e-cigarettes amid public concern over vaping-related illnesses and deaths.
The announcement, which Kroger (KR) made on Monday, came just weeks after Walmart (WMT) made a similar announcement, citing regulatory uncertainty. CBS, Viacom and CNN parent company WarnerMedia also announced in September they would prohibit e-cigarette advertisements on their networks.
“Kroger is discontinuing the sale of electronic nicotine delivery products, or e-cigarettes, at all store and fuel center locations due to the mounting questions and increasingly-complex regulatory environment associated with these products,” the supermarket chain said in a statement. “The company will exit this category after selling through its current inventory.”
The vaping industry has been in turmoil following the illnesses and deaths tied to e-cigarettes, as well as the ensuing threat of federal and state regulation. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an executive action to ban the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes in the state on September 15. The previous week, Michigan became the first state to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes.
There have been 1,080 lung injury cases related to e-cigarettes as of October 1, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Eighteen deaths have been confirmed in 15 states, the agency said.
The CDC also said a definitive cause for or connection between all the cases has not been identified.
This is the second time in as many months that Kroger has gotten involved in a high-profile issue. In early September the company asked customers to refrain from carrying firearms into its stores, even in states where open carry is legal.