Apple is taking a dramatic step to address what has become an increasingly concerning vaping problem.
The tech giant confirmed to Axios on Friday that it plans to remove all 181 apps in its App Store that in some way relate to vaping. By Friday morning, the company said, all the apps would be removed and iPhone or iPad users will no longer be able to download them.
In a statement to Axios, Apple said it has updated its App Store Review Guidelines to now ban apps "encouraging or facilitating" the use of vaping products. The company justified its decision by pointing to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and American Heart Association, which have both called vaping products "a public health crisis and a youth epidemic."
"We agree," Apple said in its statement.
The move follows reports that 42 people have died due to vaping-related lung illnesses. Those people, many of whom were young and used vaping cartridges with THC in them, developed serious lung problems from vaping. In some cases, they didn't even vape often before the problems occurred.
The decision to remove the apps is being pitched by Apple as a way for the company to stand up to a health crisis and do its part to help people. And Apple may be right about that. But it also highlights the kind of power Apple wields over developers and its App Store.
Apple's App Store guidelines have come under fire for years from critics who complain that Apple's policies can be too stringent or difficult to understand. In some cases, Apple has been criticized for banning apps or not allowing them into the store, and not providing enough information on why.
For developers who may have been generating income off those apps, that revenue stream is now gone. Some of those developers can generate revenue from Android since, as of this writing, the search giant's Google Play marketplace still allows both free and paid vaping apps.
Still, in the world of apps, Apple's App Store is the place developers can stand to make significant sums of cash. Getting banned from the marketplace can be disastrous.
But, alas, Apple's App Store is the iPhone maker's marketplace. And for now, the company can do what it wants. And when it wants to help address a growing health concern in the U.S., it can do so. And on Friday, it did just that.