“We’re constantly evaluating apps, and consulting the latest evidence to determine risks to users’ health and well-being,” Apple spokesman Fred Sainz said in a statement. Apple cited evidence from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other groups that have linked vaping and e-cigarette usage to deaths and lung injuries.
The App Store is a powerful platform that generates billions of dollars in revenue for Apple. Apple sets the rules for what is allowed on it, affecting millions of users and developers. Some critics complain that Apple applies its standards unevenly or is too restrictive, while others say the company hasn’t gone far enough to curb harmful apps.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment about the criticism.
Apple says it hasn’t approved a vape-related app since June. That’s when the company updated its app review guidelines to prohibit anything that encourages or facilitates vaping, the company said.
Health advocates applauded Apple’s decision. Erika Sward, assistant vice president of national advocacy for the American Lung Association, said apps like the ones removed by Apple are an important marketing tool for vaping companies and can be appealing to children and young adults.
“Our phones are our lifelines for so many things, but we don’t want them to become a line to tobacco usage,” she said.
Vaping-related illnesses have killed at least 42 people and put thousands in the hospital with pneumonialike symptoms, according to the CDC.
On Nov. 8, CDC officials announced a “breakthrough” discovery, saying they identified vitamin E acetate in the lung fluids of 29 people sickened in the outbreak of dangerous vaping-related lung injuries. The finding points to the oil as a likely culprit in the outbreak, a top official said.
Officials are also concerned about the popularity of vaping among young people. Preliminary data from an annual government-funded survey shows that 1 in 9 U.S. high school seniors vapes daily.
Apple has faced increased scrutiny over its App Store in recent months. In September, The Washington Post reported that the company has used the store to copy ideas from popular third-party apps, rendering the original in some cases obsolete.
That has helped trigger some regulatory scrutiny.