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Rite Aid to Stop Sale of E-Cigarettes

Rite Aid said it would remove e-cigarette and vaping products from stores over the next 90 days; stores will continue to sell regular cigarettes

Rite Aid Corp. is halting the sale of e-cigarettes in its drugstores, even as it continues to sell traditional cigarettes, taking a different stance on tobacco products than its two main pharmacy rivals.

The company will remove all e-cigarette and vaping products, including startup Juul Labs Inc.’s popular nicotine-packed vaporizers, over the next 90 days, Bryan Everett, Rite Aid operating chief, said on a conference call Thursday. Executives said the change was in response to use of the products by children and teens.

CVS Health Corp. no longer sells e-cigarettes or cigarettes, while Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. continues to sell both.

While Rite Aid plans to drop Juul from its stores, consumers will still be able to buy a pack of Marlboros. A company spokesman said Rite Aid will continue to sell traditional cigarettes; he added the company has significantly reduced the visibility and footprint of its tobacco offering across its stores. Cigarette smoking kills 480,000 people in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“While many feel these products are beneficial to those of legal age who are trying to quit the use of tobacco, we have made the decision to remove all electronic cigarettes and vaping products from our offering at all Rite Aid stores,” Mr. Everett said on the call.

Youth use of e-cigarettes jumped 78% between 2017 and 2018—to one out of every five high-school students—largely because of the popularity of Juul.

The Food and Drug Administration earlier this year announced new restrictions on retail sales of e-cigarettes with fruity and sweet flavors, which the agency said appeal to children and teenagers.

Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. is testing tobacco-free stores in the U.S. after facing pressure from federal regulators and some investors, but the pharmacy chain said it has no plans to quit selling cigarettes yet. CVS Health Corp. stopped selling tobacco products in 2014

Shares of Rite Aid tumbled more than 10% Thursday.

Patrick Thomas/Wall Street Journal