As public health officials scramble to determine why vaping has become a deadly threat, some businesses aren't waiting for those answers.
A number of retailers have announced plans to cease sale of electronic nicotine delivery products, otherwise known as e-cigarettes, that have gained in popularity for consumers who use them to vape.
A spate of illnesses and deaths nationwide — including two vaping-related deaths in Kansas — has compelled some businesses to make plans to remove the products from their store shelves.
Walmart in September announced it would end sales amid public concern over vaping-related illnesses and deaths. Walmart cited the uncertainty related the potential health risks of vaping as health officials work to pinpoint a cause for the sicknesses and deaths in people who used e-cigarettes.
Other retailers have followed suit, including Dollar General, Costco and Rite-Aid. Target never sold vaping devices and has long been cigarette free, with those products taken off store shelves more than 20 years ago.
Kroger — which owns Dillons grocery stores — recently joined companies announcing plans to stop selling e-cigarettes.
Retailers should be able to offer and sell legal products. But when there’s overwhelming evidence of a deadly, escalating threat, it’s necessary to err on the side of caution until a cause is known. It’s even more of a concern when such products clearly appeal to teenagers who stand to become long-term consumers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 1,000 lung-injury cases related to vaping as of the start of October, with 18 deaths in 15 states. Patients reported such symptoms as coughing, shortness of breath and chest pain. The CDC is investigating along with the Food and Drug Administration and state health departments.
Many people who smoke tobacco have turned to e-cigarettes as a way to wean themselves off tobacco use. While cigarettes are indeed a known killer, there’s no sense in turning to a substitute in e-cigarettes if it’s not clear what’s in them, and what harm they could do.
Lee Norman, Kansas Department of Health and Environment secretary who was called on recently to testify before a congressional committee on the effects of e-cigarettes, summed up the situation: “E-cigarettes are unregulated, which means that we don’t know what’s in them. And, of great concern to me, is that in the midst of all these illnesses being reported, the amount of young people using them is significant.”
People of any age who aren't trying to kick the tobacco habit and want to vape should proceed with extreme caution — or, better yet, simply avoid the products until health officials figure out what’s causing the serious ailments and deaths.
KDHE noted anyone who does vape should be vigilant and get checked if they have such symptoms as cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and fever. Other advice from KDHE: Never buy the products off the street, and never modify e-cigarette products or add any substances that are not intended by the manufacturer.
Considering uncertainty surrounding the cause of vaping-related illnesses and deaths, pulling the products from store shelves until more is known is a responsible move by retailers who've taken that step. More should follow their example.