PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Dozens of Rhode Islanders both for and against Gov. Gina Raimondo’s ban on the sale of flavored vaping products testified in front of heath officials Tuesday evening.
The four-month ban, which was implemented back in October, was issued in response to the increasing number of vaping related illnesses plaguing the nation.
The Rhode Island Department of Health is currently trying to decide whether to institute a permanent ban statewide, similar to the one recently implemented by Gov. Charlie Baker in Massachusetts.
Mike Runshe, who owns Giant Vapes in East Providence, testified against the ban.
He said he conducted an online survey of his customers to gauge how many of them used flavored e-cigarettes to quit smoking.
“We actually had 6,600 responses to the survey and over 95% of my customers that quit smoking with these products used flavors,” Runshe said.
Raimondo said the temporary ban was meant to protect children, who she believes are the targets of vaping sales.
“Schools are seeing a plethora of problems associated with vaping and the kids are very clear with our counselors that they were attracted to the flavors,” Colleen Judge of Sheehan Psychotherapy Associates said.
So far, there have been five cases of lung injury related to vaping in Rhode Island, including one death.
RIDOH spokesperson Joseph Wendelken said the 180-day ban will end in March. That is when he said health officials will decide on how to move forward.
“At this point, we’re just trying to hear from as many people as possible, to get as many perspectives as we can, and leadership at the department will use that comment in thinking about next steps,” Wendelken said.
Wendelken said RIDOH will continue to accept written public comment on the ban until Jan. 27.
If Rhode Island decides to implement a permanent ban, it will be the second state in the country to do so.