Massachusetts has banned the sale of all vaping products for four months, the strongest measure imposed by any state in the fight against vaping-related illnesses.
Calling the burgeoning number of cases of lung disease from vaping a public health emergency, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said the ban will immediately apply to marijuana and tobacco e-cigarettes and extend through Jan. 25, 2020. It must be approved by a health council that is nearly certain to do so.
Baker’s office said that, as of Tuesday, 61 cases of suspected vaping-related illnesses in Massachusetts have been reported to the state Department of Public Health. That’s an increase of 23 over the previous week.
“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.”
According to the latest update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released Thursday, there have been 530 cases of vaping-related lung disease reported in 38 states and one U.S. territory. At the time, six deaths had been confirmed, but that figure has since risen to nine. CDC officials expect the totals to continue growing.
No specific cause has been pinpointed for the illnesses, whose symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting and fever. But chemical exposure is the main suspect. Most patients have reported using e-cigarettes with THC, the main psychoactive chemical in marijuana, and a large number said they vaped nicotine.
The CDC is urging users to refrain from vaping entirely and, if that’s too difficult, at least to avoid buying vaping products on the street.
President Donald Trump has called for a crackdown on flavored e-cigarettes, and in recent weeks Michigan and New York have announced plans to ban their sale.
Massachusetts is believed to be the first state to impose an outright ban on all e-cigarettes, which the city of San Francisco did as well in June.
Michael Seilbach, assistant vice president for state public policy at the American Lung Association, praised the state’s move and said the federal Food and Drug Administration now needs to step up.
“From our perspective, it’s the absence of strong federal action by the FDA that is forcing states to have to make choices like this on how they are going to protect children and adults from the public health emergency of e-cigarettes,” he said.
Contributing: The Associated Press