Apple has removed 181 vaping-related apps from its mobile App Store globally, the company said on Friday.
"Recently, experts ranging from the CDC to the American Heart Association have attributed a variety of lung injuries and fatalities to e-cigarette and vaping products, going so far as to call the spread of these devices a public health crisis and a youth epidemic. We agree, and we've updated our App Store Review Guidelines to reflect that apps encouraging or facilitating the use of these products are not permitted," the company said in a statement.
Apple said the apps are a mix of stores, social networks, news and games. They represent 0.00010% of the 1.8 million apps available through the mobile App Store, the company said.
The company said it had been moving in this direction for months. In June, Apple prohibited the promotion of vaping products in its app store and had not approved any new vaping-related apps since.
The apps now banned from the App Store will continue to work for customers who already have them downloaded on their devices, and they can be transferred to new devices.
Apple's move was applauded by groups such as the American Heart Association and the ghd Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
"By taking e-cigarette related apps off the App Store, Apple will help reduce youth exposure to e-cigarette marketing and discourage youth use of these products. Apple is setting a welcome example of corporate responsibility in protecting our kids," Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in a statement.
Research published recently in the medical journal JAMA found that in 2019, 27.5% of high school students and 10.5% of middle school students currently use e-cigarettes. Based on that data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey, researchers estimated 4.1 million US high school students and 1.2 million middle school students currently use e-cigarettes, and 970,000 use them daily.
Aside from the youth vaping epidemic, there were 2,172 cases of lung injury linked to vaping as of November 13, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday. The CDC also reports 42 confirmed deaths in 24 states and the District of Columbia.
The CDC says it has yet to identify the official cause or causes of the outbreak, but the investigation has increasingly focused on products containing THC. Last week, the agency reported its first "potential chemical of concern": vitamin E acetate, an additive sometimes used in THC and other vaping products.