BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker declared a temporary ban on the sale of all vape products Tuesday afternoon.
Baker declared a public health emergency in response to public health concerns about unexplained vaping-related illness. The sale of all vape products, including both tobacco and marijuana, will be prohibited until Jan. 25, 2020.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed 530 cases of lung injury across 38 states.
“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,” said Baker 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 Department of Public Health mandated that Massachusetts physicians immediately report any unexplained vaping-associated pulmonary disease to the department earlier this month. As of Tuesday, 61 cases had been reported.
Many of the patients reported recent use of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)- containing products and others reported using both THC and nicotine products. No single product has been linked to all cases.
Vaping consists of inhaling and exhaling aerosol, which is often called vapor, produced by an e-cigarette or similar battery-powered device. Some devices resemble pens, USB sticks, and other everyday items which allow for discreet carrying and use.
Vaping products are sold in several flavors that appeal to younger people. The U.S. Surgeon General has called teen e-cigarette use an epidemic. Since 2014, e-cigarettes have been the most commonly used tobacco product among both middle and high school students, according to the CDC.
More than 40 percent of teenagers in Massachusetts reported trying e-cigarettes in 2017 and 1 in 5 reported using them regularly.
During the temporary, four-month ban, the Baker administration will work with medical experts and state and federal officials to better understand vaping illnesses and work on additional steps to address the public health crisis, said Baker. They’ll also provide more resources for a public awareness campaign and smoking cessation programs.
“Vaping is a public health crisis, and it is imperative that we understand its impact at both the individual and overall health care system level,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “As a result of the public health emergency, the Commonwealth is implementing a statewide standing order for nicotine replacement products like gum and patches, which will allow people to access these products as a covered benefit through their insurance without requiring an individual prescription, similar to what our administration did to increase access to naloxone.”
In 1996, the youth smoking rate in Massachusetts was 36.7 percent. Today, it is 6.4 percent. Less than 14 percent of adults use combustible tobacco products.