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September 26, 2019

Massachusetts Bans All Vaping Products for 4 Months, Other States May Follow

Massachusetts’ governor announced an immediate four-month ban on all vaping product sales following recent outbreaks of vaping-related illnesses. Governor Charlie Baker (R) announced the statewide ban on Tuesday, responding to fears of the unknown health risks of e-cigarette products.

Across the nation, hundreds of e-cigarette users have been hospitalized due to severe lung injuries linked to vaping. According to Gov. Baker’s office, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has been alerted of 61 potential cases of vaping-linked lung injuries as of Tuesday. Reported patients admitted to vaping in the last several months and vaped liquids containing THC, nicotine, or a mix of the two substances.

However, health investigations launched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and state and local health departments have yet to find a common substance or e-cigarette product as causing the vaping lung sicknesses. Officials say Massachusetts’ temporary ban will allow for time to investigate the vaping-illness crises that’s impacted 38 states so far.

“The purpose of this public health emergency is to temporarily pause all sales of vaping products so that we can work with our medical experts to identify what is making people sick and how to better regulate these products to protect the health of our residents,” announced Gov. Baker.

According to the Washington Post, Massachusetts’ ban is the most widespread state-level response to the vaping illness epidemic so far. New York and Michigan launched bans on sales of flavored vaping products earlier this month, experts claiming flavored e-cigarette products are gateway products for youth to develop nicotine addictions. Massachusetts’ ban prohibits the sales of all tobacco and marijuana e-cigarettes whether flavored or non-flavored.

While the recent ban mainly focused on allowing time for the vaping investigation to progress, Massachusetts officials expressed deep concern about the US youth vaping epidemic.

“Vaping products are marketed and sold in nearly 8,000 flavors to make them easier to use and more appealing to youth,” Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito reported in a statement. “Today’s actions include a ban on flavored products, inclusive of mint and menthol, which we know are widely used by young people.”

According to recent studies, the percentage of U.S. high school seniors vaping has doubled within the last year, sparking concern that e-cigarettes are creating a new wave of nicotine addiction in youth. In fact, teen vaping has increased from 1 out of 10 students in 2016 to 1 out of 4 students in 2019.

Nationwide Vaping Epidemic: States Move to Action

As of September 24, over 805 cases of vaping-linked lung injures have been reported the CDC, including twelve confirmed deaths. Patients reportedly checked into hospitals with signs of respiratory sickness and symptoms including coughing, shortness of breath, vomiting, and fatigue. Some patients’ health rapidly declined and ended up needing ICU treatment for acute respirator distress system, which can be life threatening. Unfortunately, no common e-cigarette device or liquid has been identified as causing the lung injuries.

Most reported patients range in age from 18 to 34 years old. With nearly two-thirds of patients being young adults, many believe this shows how widespread the youth vaping epidemic has become in the United States.

So far, Michigan and New York have launched bans on all flavored e-cigarette products. Flavored e-cigarette products are the most popular among youth, and many claim flavored vape products lure kids into nicotine addictions. In early June, San Francisco became the first major city in the US to completely ban all e-cigarette sales, a policy that will not go into effect until next year.

With states like Michigan, New York, and California employing stricter regulations and complete bans on e-cigarette products, it seems likely more states will follow their example and place similar restrictions on vaping product sales.

Quick Look: Montana Vaping Epidemic

Montana has reported their first case of vaping-linked lung illness and faces increasing numbers of youth vaping statewide, indicating e-cigarette product bans may be in their near future.

Officials report in 2019 nearly one-third of Montana high school students use e-cigarettes, and 58% have tried them. On September 10, Montana launched an alert for Montana residents to discontinue vaping products following increasing numbers of vaping illness reports nationwide. 

Following the announcement, Montana health officials reported their first confirmed case of vaping-linked pulmonary illness. A press release by the Department of Health and Human Services and RiverStone Health stated a Yellowstone County resident was hospitalized in August for vaping-related lung illness. The patient, a man ranging in age from 30 to 40 years old, admitted to a prior history of vaping THC and nicotine.

“In order to solve what is causing these illnesses, its’ imperative that people impacted cooperate with the investigation so that accurate information can be gathered,” said RiverStone CEO John Felton in the press release. “These investigative efforts are happening around the country, and we appreciate those in Montana who are assisting.”

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