There will be a four-month ban on all vaping products in Massachusetts.
At the State House Tuesday, Gov. Charlie Baker declared a public health emergency and called upon the state's public health council to enact the temporary ban. The council swiftly approved the move, making Massachusetts the first U.S. state to halt sales of vaping products of all kinds.
Baker's call came as fears among some health experts and consumers continued to mount about a number of mysterious illnesses and deaths nationwide over the last several weeks. Though an exact cause has not been determined, the illnesses and deaths are all considered related to vaping. No Massachusetts residents have died.
"Today I'm officially declaring a public health emergency in the commonwealth, due to severe lung disease associated with the use of e-cigarettes and marijuana-infused vaping products," he said.
Baker said a pause in vaping sales would give medical experts time to collect more information about what is driving the uptick in life-threatening, vaping-related illnesses, and to better understand the inherent dangers of vaping both nicotine and cannabis.
"This order prohibits the sale of all devices, all non flavored and flavored vaping products including mint and menthol, and all THC or marijuana vaping products in the commonwealth," he said.
The council also approved an order making smoking-cessation items, such as nicotine-infused patches and gum, available without a prescription.
The ban is scheduled to be lifted Jan. 25.
State Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel said she is deeply concerned about the health issues related to e-cigarettes and vaping, adding health officials don't want another generation to become addicted to nicotine.
"We do not know what is causing these illnesses, but the only thing in common in each one of these cases is the use of e-cigarettes and vaping products," she said. "So, we want to act now to protect our children."
Shaleen Title, commissioner of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, sharply criticized the ban, calling it a "terrible decision" in a tweet.
"[The ban is] purposely pushing people into the illicit market — precisely where the dangerous products are — goes against every principle of public health and harm reduction," she tweeted. "It is dangerous, short-sighted, and undermines the benefits of legal regulation."
As the news broke, David Bershad, owner of three local shops called Vape Daddy's, joined WBUR's Radio Boston to express his concerns about the ban — and how it could potentially destroy his livelihood.
“I think the state has just completely overreached in this panic,” he said.
The DPH and local boards of health will work with law enforcement to enforce the ban. Violators can be fined, or they can have their products confiscated if they fail to comply with the ban.
To curb underage vaping, the Trump administration also earlier this month announced its plans to ban flavored e-cigarettes across the nation.
This article was originally published on September 24, 2019.
This segment aired on September 24, 2019.