PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Gina Raimondo’s 120-day ban on the sale of flavored vaping products is now in effect statewide, the Rhode Island Department of Health announced Friday.
The ban is in response to the increasing number of vaping-related illnesses currently plaguing the nation.
“I’m deeply concerned about the rapid increase and effects of e-cigarette use among youth. That’s why in Rhode Island we’re taking action to ensure that companies can no longer market these products with colorful packaging and candy-based flavors,” Raimondo said. “This is a public health crisis, and the regulations announced today will help to protect our kids’ health.”
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows 1,080 lung injuries were reported in 48 states and one U.S. territory, as well as 18 confirmed deaths in 15 states. Two of those cases were confirmed in Rhode Island.
The ban characterizes flavored vaping products as “a distinguishable taste or aroma imparted either prior to, or during, consumption of an electronic nicotine-delivery system product or component part thereof.”
The directive lists a number of flavors included in the ban but officials stressed the banned flavors are not limited to that list. Health officials said they’ll also take labeling and packaging into account when deciding if a product should be included in the ban.
Penalties for businesses that fail to comply with the ban will range from fines to loss of licenses, according to Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott.
Alexander-Scott said the state has distributed information on the ban to all of Rhode Island’s 400 licensed vaping retailers and the more than 1,000 other businesses licensed to sell the products.
“We know that youth in all communities and in all populations are impacted by this public health epidemic,” Alexander-Scott said. “And we want to prevent youth from immediate nicotine health harms and from becoming cigarette smokers in the future.”
The American Lung Association praised the state’s swift enaction of the temporary ban.
“Flavored tobacco products are the major reason many teens and children first try tobacco, so ending the sale of flavored e-cigarettes is critical to addressing the youth e-cigarette epidemic,” Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association Jennfier Wall said. “This action is even more urgent in light of over 1,000 vaping-related lung injuries being reported across the country.”
Raimondo’s ban is different from the executive order recently issued by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, who chose to immediately ban all vaping products from stores for at least four months.