E-Cig Makers Fuming Over CVS Tobacco Ban

Public health groups say e-cigs are guilty until proven innocent.

ByABC News
September 3, 2014, 5:02 PM

— -- Electronic cigarette sellers hoping to capitalize on the new CVS ban on the sale of tobacco said they are frustrated that the pharmacy chain won’t carry their products either.

CVS Health spokesman Mike DeAngelis told ABC News: "CVS stores have never sold e-cigarettes and has no plans to sell them in the future.”

Gregory Conley, the president of the American Vaping Association, an organization that represents independent e-cigarette sellers, said he had spoken to e-cigarette sellers who had been in talks with CVS to carry vaping products as far back as February when the company first announced its intentions to ban tobacco sales. He said he was disappointed the company has elected to treat e-cigarettes as a tobacco product.

“Considering that CVS wants to rebrand itself it would completely make sense they would want low risk alternatives to the product they just removed from the shelves,” Conley said.

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Julie Woessner, the president of Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association, also known as CASAA, said she too thinks it’s a shame that CVS isn’t considering the sale of e-cigarettes and other “vaping” products.

“There is no reason why anyone should make e-cigarettes less accessible to consumers, especially those looking to make the switch from tobacco cigarettes,” she said. “It’s smoking that causes all the health problems, not the smokeless alternatives.”

But Erika Sward of the American Lung Association said the majority of the public health community believes that e-cigarettes should be presumed guilty until proven innocent.

“There are almost 500 different brands on the market today,” Sward said. “We must have aggressive FDA oversight as well as basic science and research on the impact of public health before these products can make any claims.”

Sward said she was particularly concerned about the health risk of e-cigarettes to children, especially in light of new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data that shows over 260,000 school-age children in the U.S. have tried vaping -- a number that has tripled since 2011.

In a news release, CVS said as part of its commitment to health, the company would focus on smoking cessation.

CASAA's Woessner contended that if this is the case, then it makes little sense to limit the sales of e-cigarettes, especially to people trying to quit tobacco. She said e-cigarettes and other smokeless alternatives are effective quit-smoking aids.

However, the science on e-cigarette use in smoking cessation is mixed. While one recent British study found that smokers were about 60 percent more likely to stop smoking if they used e-cigarettes, other studies have found those who switched to e-cigarettes were less likely or no more likely to quit than if they used a patch or gum. And Sward added that the CDC study reported half of kids who have vaped say they intend to smoke conventional cigarettes within the next year.

For now, Food and Drug Administration regulations forbid e-cigarette marketers from touting their devices as a way to kick the habit. Earlier this year the FDA said it planned to regulate e-cigarettes as a tobacco product which means they will ultimately be subject to the same limits on sales and marketing as cigarettes.