By FOCUS, a Leonine Business
An outbreak of vaping-related lung injuries and deaths has broken out across the country, with at least 1,080 injuries and 19 deaths across the states. According to the CDC, cases have occurred in 48 states and the Virgin Islands. No particular product has been identified as a cause of the outbreak, with the director of the CDC stating about vaping products, “I don’t know what’s safe now.”
Vaping has exploded in popularity over the past several years, going from being a niche product offered as an alternative to traditional cigarettes, to a device used by millions of Americans young and old every day. From 2017 to 2018 alone, there was a 78 percent increase in e-cigarette use by high school students, and a 48 percent increase among middle school students, according to the FDA.
Alongside their growing popularity has come an increasing chorus pushing for stringent regulation of the devices, which are not held to the same strict standards as other tobacco products. The FDA currently has regulatory jurisdiction over all tobacco products in the U.S., including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, and all other tobacco products. In 2014, the agency declared that the regulation of e-cigarettes, e-liquids and other vapor products falls under its regulatory purview; however, it did not take any major action to regulate the devices at this time.
With federal authority over vaping products firmly in the hands of the FDA, the Trump Administration is now pushing for a total ban on flavored e-cigarettes and vaping products. Such a ban is already in place for nearly all other tobacco products – cigarettes and chewing tobacco may only be sold in plain and menthol flavors nationwide, though some cigars are allowed to be sold in varying flavors in different states. The proposed ban would ban all non-tobacco flavored vaping products, more stringent than the bans on any other tobacco products. Some of the president’s supporters; however, are urging against the broad-based ban, arguing that the move may hurt the president politically in his upcoming re-election campaign.
While it has taken years for federal action on vaping products, states have been moving to regulate them for years. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have enacted bans that prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes and vapor products to minors, and several are taking steps to prohibit the sale of flavored products following the recent explosion of youth vaping and respiratory illnesses.
With most state legislatures out of session this late in the year, several states have moved quickly to take executive action against flavored e-cigarettes and vapor products. Among the actions taken by states in the last month alone include:
- California issued an executive order directing state agencies to develop recommendations to prohibit the sale of vapor products to individuals under 21 years of age. The governor has additionally called for the outright banning of flavored e- cigarettes by the legislature.
- Massachusetts’ Republican Gov. Charlie Baker declared a public health emergency that has instituted among the strictest vaping bans yet. The emergency declaration places a four-month statewide ban on all sales of marijuana and tobacco vaping products, regardless of any flavoring. The governor is also calling on the legislature to make the ban permanent.
- Michigan issued an emergency ban on all sales of flavored nicotine vaping products, while lawmakers work to enact a more permanent measure.
- New York’s Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order aiming to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes; however, a court order put a hold on the ban the day before it was to take effect. The case is scheduled to be heard on October 18.
- Rhode Island Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order banning the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in all flavors for 120 days, with an option to extend the ban for an additional 60 days. Tobacco flavored vaping products are exempt from this ban.
- Utah’s Department of Health issued an emergency rule restricting the sale of flavored e-cigarette products to certain tobacco specialty businesses.
The issue of flavored e-cigarettes and vapor products will undoubtedly be at the top of lawmakers’ agendas in the coming 2020 legislative sessions. One of the few states in session, New Jersey, may provide a preview of what is to come nationwide. Garden State lawmakers are considering a legislative ban on e-cigarettes in the wake of the epidemic that has killed one state citizen and sickened 14 more.