The Kroger Co. and Walgreens have become the latest retailers to exit the market for electronic cigarettes.
In a statement on Monday, Kroger said it will phase out the e-cigarette category across its family of retail brands by selling off its current stock of products. The Cincinnati-based company provided no further details on the plan.
The nation’s largest supermarket operator, Kroger operates 2,759 stores under more than 20 banners.
“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,” a Kroger spokesperson stated. “The company will exit this category after selling through its current inventory.”
Also on Monday, Walgreens announced that it plans to end sales of e-cigarette products. The Deerfield, Ill.-based retailer, the nation's second-largest drug chain with nearly 9,600 stores, didn't give a timetable for phasing out the products.
"We have made the decision to stop selling e-cigarette products at our stores nationwide as the CDC, FDA and other health officials continue to examine the issue," Walgreens said in a statement. "This decision is also reflective of developing regulations in a growing number of states and municipalities."
Kroger’s and Walgreens' announcements come about two weeks after Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart said it planned to end e-cigarette product sales at its Walmart and Sam’s Club stores after currently inventory was sold.
Other food, drug and mass retailers that recently said they would stop selling e-cigarette products, or had already pulled the items from their stores, include Rite Aid, Dollar General, ShopRite and Costco Wholesale.
Like Walmart, Kroger and Walgreens cited health concerns and the changing regulatory climate for e-cigarettes. Restrictions and or bans — notably against flavored vaping products that may attract minors — are being considered or under way at the local, state and federal levels.
The backlash against e-cigarettes continues to escalate as health authorities report more cases of illness and death connected to the products. Through Oct. 1, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention said it has fielded reports of 1,080 lung injury cases linked to use of e-cigarette products in 48 states and one U.S. territory, and 18 deaths have been confirmed in 15 states.
CDC noted that most patients report a history of using vaping products with THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, and that the latest national and regional findings indicate that THC-containing products play a role in the incidence of illness. Of the reported cases, 16% of patients are younger than 18 and 21% are 18 to 20 years old, the agency said.
*Editor's Note: Article updated to include statement from Walgreens.