Up in smoke: Alibaba to stop selling vape components in US

The Chinese e-commerce giant’s move follows decisions by US firms to pull e-cigarettes from shelves as illnesses rise.

A man uses a vape device
Vaping has been linked to over a dozen deaths in the US and over 1,000 lung-related illnesses [File: Adnan Abisi/Reuters]

Alibaba’s presence in the United States vaping market is evaporating after it said it will stop selling e-cigarette components there.

The Chinese e-commerce firm is the latest company to announce that it would clamp down on offering e-cigarette products to US buyers amid growing regulatory scrutiny into reports of lung disease and deaths linked to vaping. 

Alibaba’s decision on Wednesday follows announcements by Kroger Co and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc this week that they would stop selling the devices at their stores. Walmart made a similar decision in late September.

Alibaba said it already had a long-standing policy in place to not sell complete e-cigarette products in the US.

Vaping products have been linked to a mysterious lung illness that is reported to have led to 18 deaths as of last week, with the number of confirmed and probable cases of the condition exceeding 1,000, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd said that listings for a range of products would not be displayed for users located in the US. These include box mods, which are e-cigarettes with replaceable batteries, atomisers and storage tanks. Smaller vape pens, herbal vapours, heat-not-burn devices, and empty pod cartridges would also be pulled from the market, it said.

While Juul Labs Inc dominates the North American market for pod-based e-cigarettes, many reports of death and injury in the US have been tied to makeshift brands with no identifiable owner.

The most prominent, Dank Vapes, was linked to 24 patients with lung illness, according to a study by the New England Journal of Medicine. The products contained THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

Prior to the suspension, buyers could easily build their own counterfeit vaping devices with component parts and packaging from sites such as Alibaba or Amazon.

Amazon.com Inc took down vape paraphernalia in September, although it did not specify the exact products it removed.

Source: Reuters