This morning, Apple removed all 181 vaping-related apps from its App Store. The company is taking a hard-line stance beyond prohibiting apps that sell vape cartridges. Any apps connected to vaping in any way, such as those that allowed users to control vape pen temperatures or read vaping-related news, will no longer be available in one of today’s leading mobile app stores.
The decision only affects potential future downloads. Those who have already downloaded vaping apps will be able to continue using them on existing or future devices.
Google Play and other popular apps stores have yet to follow suit.
The decision comes on the heels of a public health epidemic that started back in August. According to the CDC, 42 people have died thus far from a vaping-related lung illness. A majority of these instances involved people who were using cartridges containing THC.
Apple’s Past History with App Removal
Apple’s announcement does not come as a surprise. The company stopped accepting new vaping-related apps back in June. Now, the App Store Review Guidelines state that any product which promotes or facilitates the use of vaping pens will not be permitted.
While the recent decision represents Apple’s independent volition, the company does receive many app removal requests. A recent transparency report revealed that the tech giant removed 634 apps over six-months ending December 2018. Most of the requests came from mainland China.
“We take great care to curate the App Store as a trusted place for customers, particularly youth, to download apps,” commented Apple in a statement to Axios. “We’re constantly evaluating apps, and consulting the latest evidence, to determine risks to users’ health and well-being.”
Vaping Under Public Health Scrutiny
Vaping isn’t a new trend or technology. The smoking method was invented over 50 years ago by Herbert Gilbert. Only in the last 15 years has it become a mainstream choice for smokers, especially amongst teens. According to a recent JAMA survey, 28 percent of high school students reported using an e-cigarette in the last month, an 8 percent increase over 2018.
There has been a recent spike in vaping-related lung illness, which is why the issue is currently in the national spotlight. Over the past several months, there have been over 2,100 cases of vaping-related illness and over 40 deaths. The CDC, FDA, and other healthcare institutions are still unsure of the root cause.
Some are pointing to vitamin E acetate as a potential culprit, although there is still much to learn. Earlier this week, the CDC addressed concerns about vitamin E acetate in more detail in the weekly Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. “Until the relationship between Vitamin E acetate and lung health is better characterized, it’s important that Vitamin E acetate not be added to e-cigarette or vaping products,” says Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy of the CDC.
Fallout Still in Effect
Although the initial vaping-related illnesses scare has subsided, we still see follow-on effects. The CEO of Juul, Kevin Burns, quit after the company’s e-cigarette came under attack. Juul also canceled all advertising efforts in the U.S.
India banned e-cigarettes altogether in September after seeing what was happening stateside. The ban covers all sales, advertising, production, and imports.
Several U.S. states and cities have also moved forward with bans and restrictions. As the CDC releases new findings and intel, we are likely to see additional action at the policy level.