Exchanges on Army, Air Force and Navy installations are in the process of removing e-cigarettes and vaping products from their shelves and from concessionaires by Oct. 1, in light of recent deaths and illnesses associated with vaping.
Marine Corps Exchange officials have not yet made a decision about whether they will pull the products.
Commissaries don’t sell e-cigarettes or vaping products.
The decisions were made in the wake of news about the outbreak of mysterious vaping-related lung injuries. At least 530 cases from 38 states have been reported, and seven deaths have been confirmed in six states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Navy Exchange Service Command officials were the first to determine that stores will no longer sell these products “out of an abundance of caution,” said Courtney Williams, spokeswoman for NEXCOM. Two types of e-cigarettes are sold on Navy Exchange shelves, both approved by the Food and Drug Administration, will be removed by 5 p.m., Sept. 26, she said.
Navy Exchanges don’t sell any vaping products, but some exchange locations have concession vendors that do sell them. As of Oct. 1, concessionaires and vendors will be prohibited from selling e-cigarettes or vaping products in any Navy Exchange, Williams said.
The Army and Air Force Exchange Service will also remove the e-cigarette and vape products from its shelves, effective the close of business Sept. 30, according to AAFES spokesman Chris Ward. The products are being removed until the Food and Drug Administration’s work with the CDC state health departments to collect information on the products is complete, he said.
Ward cited the Army Public Health Center’s Public Health Alert warning that advises soldiers and families not to use e-cigarettes or vaping products until more is known about the mysterious vaping-related lung injuries. Officials have not yet identified any specific e-cigarette or vaping product that is linked to all the cases, according to the CDC.
E-cigarettes are a form of vaping. It’s called vaping because tiny puffs of vapor are produced when the device is used. E-cigarettes have the potential to help adult smokers quit smoking regular cigarettes.
Vaping now appears to be more common in the military than smoking regular cigarettes, according to results of the most recent Defense Department Health-Related Behaviors Survey of Active-Duty Service Members. The results of that survey, conducted in 2015, showed 11.1 percent of troops said they were daily e-cigarette users, compared to 7.4 percent who said they smoked cigarettes daily.
In the junior enlisted ranks, nearly 20 percent said they were current e-cigarette smokers.
At the time they released the survey, Rand researchers noted that the health effects of e-cigarettes are not yet known, and flagged it as a potential health issue for DoD leadership to address.
The trends for e-cigarette sales vary among the military exchanges, which started selling the products in 2012 or 2013. Sales of e-cigarettes at exchanges on Army, Air Force and Navy bases increased steadily through 2015 or 2016, but decreased since then.
Marine Corps exchanges had a different trend line, with the number of e-cigarette units decreasing through 2016, then starting to jump. In the first 11 months of the 2018 fiscal year, which ended Feb 2, sales of e-cigs nearly doubled.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.