Massachusetts Temporarily Bans Vape Sales

By Kelly Burch 09/26/19

Critics fear the ban will push people to use black market vaping products.

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person holding up no vaping sign in Massachusetts
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The state of Massachusetts has declared an emergency four-month ban on the sale of all vaping products, amid increasing reports of vape-related illnesses around the country. 

“One of the experts said that, ‘We don’t have time to wait. People are getting sick and the time to act is now.’ I couldn’t agree more,” Governor Charlie Baker said, according to The Boston Globe.

The ban was approved Tuesday (Sept. 24) and is the strictest policy that has been adopted so far in the U.S. The ban covers flavored and unflavored vaping products, and extends to ban online and retail sales as well.

Other States Taking Similar Measures

New York banned flavored vaping products last week, and Michigan took similar steps earlier this month. The Massachusetts ban covers all vape products, including tobacco-flavored products, similar to San Francisco, which enacted a ban on all vape products in June.

“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 at a press conference, according to the Associated Press.

Michael Seilback, assistant vice president for state public policy of the American Lung Association, called on the feds to take action, something the Trump administration has promised to do. 

“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,” said Seilback. 

Critics React

Still, people who sell vapes said that an across-the-board ban is an overreach. 

“There are clearly some issues there. The question is, what’s the problem? Is it the product being sold on the shelves by companies like Juul, or is it the off-brand stuff coming from other countries and sold on the internet?” said Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. “I hope we can all work together and find out what is the problem and find a solution soon.”

Geoffrey Yalenezian is the COO of a chain of vape shops in Massachusetts. He said he was shocked by the ban. 

“My chin hit the floor,” he said, adding that the ban is “not changing or stopping anything. He’s taking a stance. His stance is I don’t really care about small businesses in Massachusetts.”

Shaleen Title, who sits on Massachusetts’ Cannabis Control Commission, is concerned that the ban will push people to use black market vapes, which are potentially even more dangerous. 

“This is a terrible decision. Purposely pushing people into the illicit market—precisely where the dangerous products are—goes against every principle of public health and harm reduction,” she wrote on Twitter. “It is dangerous, short-sighted, and undermines the benefits of legal regulation.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.