Concerns over the nationwide spate of vape-related illnesses reached a head in Massachusetts on Tuesday, as Governor Charlie Baker announced a four month ban on all cannabis and nicotine vape products sold within state lines.
According to concurrent reports from Mass Live and the Washington Post, Gov. Baker declared the rash of vaping hospitalizations and deaths a public health emergency, and moved to halt all vape product sales until the sickness has been diagnosed and properly addressed. Baker’s decision was backed by the state’s Public Health Council, which approved the declaration unanimously Tuesday afternoon. The vape ban will go into effect immediately.
“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,” Gov. Charlie Baker (R) said in a statement. “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.”
The vape-related illnesses were first reported this summer, and hundreds of vape consumers have landed in the hospital since. And at least eight people have died from the illness so far. In the weeks since, health officials and industry experts have hypothesized that the problems have been caused by chemical diluents — particularly the cutting agent and liquid thickener Vitamin E Acetate. In general, hospitalizations and deaths have been frequently linked to black market THC vape cartridges and homemade nicotine oils.
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But while states like New York and Michigan have already moved to ban flavored vape products — and Canada could see the roll out of cannabis oil cartridges delayed — Massachusetts is the first state to ban all vape products, including legal cannabis. As new regulations continue to pop up across the US, e-cigarette proponents have largely pointed the finger at cannabis products, while marijuana advocates argue that the only way to truly solve the problem is through federal legalization, regulatory oversight, and widespread education campaigns.
In an interview with Mass Live, a spokesperson for the e-cigarette company Juul said that a ban on vape products would not have the teetotaling affect desired by Governor Baker, but would instead push residents to purchase potentially dangerous vape products from the black market.
“Removing e-cigarettes from the market will create a thriving black market of counterfeit and compatible products, made with unknown ingredients under unknown manufacturing standards, drive former adult smokers who successfully use vapor products back to cigarettes, and deny the opportunity for current adult smokers to have alternatives,” Juul representative Austin Finan said.
It is not yet known what the penalty will be for dispensaries and smoke shops that continue to sell vape products, but the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission has sent a letter to all state-licensed dispensaries to cease the sale of vape cartridges and pens immediately.
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