(CBS).– Apple said Friday that it is removing all apps related to electronic cigarettes and vaping from the company’s app store, citing concerns about the rash of deaths and lung injuries linked to the products.
“As of today, these apps are no longer available to download,” the company said in statement.
Apple withdrew a total of 181 vaping apps, which the technology company said included apps for controlling vaping devices’ temperature and lighting, news, and games. Customers who have already downloaded the software can continue using the apps and transfer them to any new devices they buy.
Behind Apple’s decision is mounting evidence that vaping is responsible for at least 42 deaths and more than 2,000 lung illnesses around the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“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,” Apple said.
Data show that more than 5 million young people in the U.S. use e-cigarettes, including roughly a quarter of all high school students.
E-cigarette makers face mounting pressure to curb their products’ appeal to youth. Vaping company Juul last week stopped selling its mint refill pods, which account for about 70% of the company’s U.S. sales, in a step that could hurt its profitability. The move came after Juul had already stopped selling sweet and fruit-flavored pods, siting their appeal to youth users.
The White House is expected to announce a ban on flavored e-cigarettes as early as next week.
“We’re going to be coming out with a very important position on vaping,” President Donald Trump said last week. “We have to take care of our kids, most importantly. So we’re going to have an age limit of 21 or so.”
Anti-smoking groups lauded Apple’s move.
“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,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, in a statement.