BOSTON (WPRI) — In response to reports of illnesses and deaths related to vaping, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has declared a public health emergency and placed a temporary, statewide ban on the sale of all vape products.
Baker cited recent statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which revealed there have been more than 500 cases of lung injury and eight deaths nationwide potentially linked to vaping. The CDC is investigating the outbreak along with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“The use of e-cigarettes and marijuana vaping products is exploding and we are seeing reports of serious lung illnesses, particularly in our young people,” Baker said. “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.”
Earlier this month, the Mass. Department of Public Health mandated that physicians in the state must immediately report potential cases of lung disease associated with the use of e-cigarettes and vaping. As of Tuesday, 61 cases have been reported, according to Baker’s office, of which three confirmed cases and two probable cases have been forwarded to the CDC while the rest are pending further clinical analysis.
The ban goes into effect immediately and lasts through Jan. 25, 2020. It prohibits the retail and online sale of all flavored, non-flavored, nicotine and marijuana vaping products including devices, liquids, refill pods and cartridges.
Baker’s office said his administration will work with legislators and public health officials to consider the next steps and possible reforms.
American Lung Association President and CEO Harold Wimmer responded to Baker’s declaration by calling on the FDA and Massachusetts legislature to take action against flavored vaping products: “In the absence of strong federal action especially by the FDA, states are being forced to make decisions to protect the health of children and adults from a vaping-related public health emergency. Governor Baker’s announcement reinforces the need for the FDA to clear the market of all flavored e-cigarettes in order to address the youth e-cigarette epidemic.
“While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local departments of health continue to investigate the hundreds of cases of lung injury from e-cigarettes, the American Lung Association once again urges all Americans to stop using e-cigarettes,” he continued. “Following a report from the CDC that 27.5% of kids are using e-cigarettes and that many are initiated with flavored products, we also call on the Massachusetts legislature to pass a law prohibiting the sale of all flavored tobacco products.”
In Rhode Island, a state representative has proposed a bill seeking to ban all flavored vaping products.
A spokesperson for the R.I. Department of Health said Tuesday the state hasn’t had any confirmed vaping-related illnesses but healthcare providers have been instructed to report any suspected cases.