Rite Aid, one of the country's largest pharmacy chains, will stop selling e-cigarettes and vaping products because it fears it is fueling tobacco use among college and university students in the United States.
Rite Aid announced Thursday that it will withdraw products from its more than 2,400 stores over the next 90 days. The chain will continue to sell ordinary tobacco products, a decision criticized by some public health advocates.
"We are concerned by some alarming statistics regarding the use of e-cigarettes and vaping products by children and teens," said Bryan Everett, director of operations of the chain, during a call regarding the results. He added that "although many think these products are beneficial to those who have reached the legal age who are trying to give up smoking," the company had decided to stop selling them because of their growing popularity among young people.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that consumption of tobacco products, a category that includes electronic cigarettes and vaping products, jumped 38% last year among high school students and 29% among college students. The surge, fueled by the growth of e-cigarettes, has helped offset the decline in youth use of these products in previous years, according to C.D.C. found.
Public health experts warn that if teenage smoking remains at a low ebb, it could be reversed if e-cigarettes and e-cigarettes end up driving a new generation of traditional tobacco products.
Last month, the Food and Drug Administration decided to limit sales of flavored electronic cigarettes, which are particularly attractive for young people. The F.D.A. ordered retailers to place their electronic cigarette products in places inaccessible to those under 18 years of age.
The agency has identified Walgreens stores this year as one of the main violators of restrictions on the sale of tobacco products to minors. The F.D.A. asked to meet the leaders of the company to solve the problem.
Walgreens said Friday in an e-mailed statement that he "would welcome the opportunity to meet with the Commissioner of Food and Drugs to discuss all the measures we are taking regarding this important issue". The chain said it banned the sale of minor tobacco products and immediately dismissed employees who violated the ban.
The F.D.A. In addition, this month, a dozen retailers, including Walmart and Family Dollar, received a letter asking them to submit a project within 30 days describing how they plan to process and limit sales of tobacco products. to minors. Rite Aid and Walgreens have not received a letter.
Despite Rite Aid's latest initiative, public health advocates were not happy to learn that the chain would continue to sell traditional tobacco products. They said the company should follow the example given by CVS, which stopped selling tobacco in 2014 and subsequently imposed himself as a health giant. CVS was the first major pharmacy chain to stop selling tobacco, bringing in $ 2 billion worth of sales a year.
"There is a fundamental conflict between their stated mission of improving health and well-being and selling tobacco products, which are the leading cause of preventable death," said Vince Willmore, spokesman for the Campaign for children without tobacco. "Pharmacies can not have both. Other pharmacies should track CVS sales and stop sales of tobacco once and for all. "
Rite Aid said in a statement that many of its customers still want to be able to buy traditional tobacco products, but that has reduced the visibility of these products in its stores in recent years. The company added that she had also expanded her offer of quit products and trained her pharmacists in a program that can help clients quit smoking.