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November 15, 2019

Apple is cracking down on vaping apps, as cases of vaping-linked illness exceed 2.1K

Daily Briefing

    Apple on Friday announced it will remove all vaping-related apps from its "App Store" as the number of cases of a vaping-linked lung illness continues to rise.

    The move comes after Apple in June stopped accepting new apps designed to promote vaping.

    Cases of a vaping-linked illness surpass 2,100

    CDC data updated Thursday shows the number of reported cases of a lung illness officials believe is linked to e-cigarette use and vaping, dubbed EVALI, reached 2,172 as of Nov. 13, up 121 cases from the previous week's update. There have been 42 confirmed deaths, according to CDC. Cases of the illness have been reported in 49 states, Washington, D.C., and one U.S. territory, with deaths confirmed in 24 states and the District of Columbia. Alaska is the only state with no reported cases of the illness.

    Doctors report that patients' recoveries have varied, with some patients appearing to make full recoveries and others continuing to have trouble breathing. CDC last month reported that some patients have relapsed and had to be hospitalized a second time, with readmissions occurring from as few as five days to as many as 55 days after initial discharge.

    CDC said it is unclear why those patients relapsed. However, Anne Schuchat—CDC's principal deputy director, who is overseeing the agency's investigation into the matter—said it is possible that the lung illness made the patients more susceptible to other conditions. In addition, she said steroids used to treat the lung illness could "set [patients] up for increased infection risk."

    CDC officials in a report released last week announced a "breakthrough" in its investigation into what might be causing EVALI. The officials said they found vitamin E acetate in all samples of lung fluid collected from 29 patients who were hospitalized with the illness after vaping, which suggests the oil is a potential cause of the condition. However, Schuchat said the findings do not rule out other compounds or ingredients as additional potential culprits. Further, Schuchat clarified that while vitamin E acetate appears to be associated with the lung illness, there is not yet enough evidence to definitively state the chemical is causing the illness.

    Apple will remove all vaping-related apps from App Store

    As the number of vaping-linked lung illness cases continues to rise, Apple on Friday announced plans to remove all vaping-related apps from its store.

    Apple has never allowed the apps to directly sell vape cartridges to users. However, the company currently offers 181 vaping-related apps, which are designed to allow users to control the temperature and lighting of their vaping pens and access vaping-related social networks, news, and games, according to Axios. Users who have already downloaded the apps will be able to continue to use them and install them on new devices. 

    Apple told Axios, "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. As of today, these apps are no longer available to download."

    Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said, "The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids applauds Apple for taking this important step and doing its part to address the youth e-cigarette epidemic. 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" (Fried/Allen, Axios, 11/15; Stobbe, Associated Press, 11/15; Edwards, "NBC News," NBC, 11/14; Hein, Fox News, 11/14; Cosgrove, CNBC, 11/15).

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