Apple Bans Vaping-Related Apps

Nov 16, 2019
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Apple has removed 181 apps related to vaping from its App Store. The company says it's concerned about growing evidence of the health risks of e-cigarettes, especially to young people. NPR's tech correspondent Shannon Bond has more.

SHANNON BOND, BYLINE: Vaping is on the rise, and so are smartphone apps connected to e-cigarettes. You can't buy actual vaping products on the App Store, but these apps allow people to interact with their e-cigarettes. They can make them hotter or change the color they light up. If someone loses a vape pen, an app can help or find it. And vapers can talk to each other on dedicated social networks.

MATTHEW MYERS: It's one of the ways that the industry has made this product uniquely appealing to teenagers and young adults.

BOND: Matthew Myers is president of the Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids, which has been urging tech companies to ban videos, pictures and apps related to vaping.

MYERS: The availability of apps, as well as social media and online sales and YouTube, is one of the key contributors to the perception of young people that these products are safe, that they're cool and that they're something the young people should be doing.

BOND: For Myers and other public health advocates, Apple's ban is a big victory. In explaining its decision, the company pointed to mounting evidence that vaping is harmful to health. It said vaping is, quote, "a public health crisis and a youth epidemic," citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Heart Association. Apple says it's particularly concerned about its youngest customers. More than a quarter of U.S. high school students said they vaped in the past month, according to a recent government survey.

The vape pen company Pax makes an app that lets users lock their vape pens, control temperature and flavor. But it's no longer available in the App Store. Pax declined to comment on Apple's ban. For people who have already downloaded the banned apps to their iPhones, they'll still be able to use them and can move the apps to new devices. And that means young people will also still be able to use these smartphone apps if they already have them.

Shannon Bond, NPR News, San Francisco.

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