Baker takes the lead

On Tuesday, Sept. 24, Gov. Baker stepped ahead of every other governor in the United States by ordering an immediate four-month ban on vaping product sales. With state health officials standing beside him, Baker reinforced the temporary ban by declaring a public health emergency. 

We feel Baker stands on solid ground with his decision to sound the alarm over vaping. He consulted medical professionals at length before issuing his order, and state and federal health statistics reinforce the urgency underpinning his declaration. 

The federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Sept. 26 reported 805 vaping-related illness cases across the country with 66 reported by physicians to Massachusetts health officials. On Monday, Massachusetts officials reported five pulmonary injury cases linked to vaping to federal authorities.

Twelve people nationwide have died from vaping-related lung illnesses.

People are dying after consuming a product that is commercially available in this country on a widespread basis and that is marketed, to no small degree, to youth. 

Imagine if a new alcoholic beverage or snack food was introduced onto the market and reports of people dying after consuming it began to surface. Would any of us be shocked or outraged if the Food and Drug Administration ordered a sales ban?

Doctors have not reached definitive conclusions on how vaping is making people sick and killing them. That lack of knowledge about the dangers of a popular consumer product ought to be reason enough for 49 other states to join Massachusetts in enacting a temporary ban. 

Putting the brakes on vaping provides an opportunity for medical professionals — fortunately, the very best and brightest of them are in Massachusetts — to delve into the root causes of vaping-related ailments. 

It’s understandable why the vaping industry from the product’s major manufacturers to stores popping up locally are outraged by Baker’s ban. Vaping is a relatively new industry straddling three intersecting social trends:

Smokers have become societal pariahs but people are still becoming addicted to nicotine. Vaping has provided an alternative to “lighting up” and, in the view of some smokers, a path leading to eventually kicking the habit. 

Legalized marijuana has provided a vast marketing territory for vaping product makers and marijuana entrepreneurs alike who know there is plenty of money to be made even though some health reports link illnesses to marijuana vaping products.

As ever and always, the youth smoking market is a rich vein mined for decades by the tobacco industry and gleefully adopted by the vaping industry. One report stated vaping products are available in upwards of 8,000 flavors. 

For all of his faults and missteps, it is almost laughable to slam Baker with the overbearing-hand-of-government label in regards to his reality check on the vaping industry. By enacting an overarching, across-the-board ban, the governor refused to get bogged down in banning some vaping products but not others and banning marijuana vaping products but not nicotine-based consumables.

His logic behind the ban is unassailable: If a product is being sold in stores and it is killing people, then let’s stop selling it until the reasons behind the illnesses and fatalities are researched, pinpointed and addressed. 

The reality is it might take much longer than four months to get to the root causes of why vaping is making people sick and killing them. For now, we stand by Baker’s decision to ban vaping product sales. 

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