By Nate Raymond
BOSTON (Reuters) – Massachusetts on Wednesday adopted the country’s toughest ban on the sale of flavored tobacco and vaping products, including menthol cigarettes, in response to a rise in youth vaping and an outbreak of vaping-related serious lung injuries.
Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, signed into law legislation passed by the state’s Democrat-controlled legislature earlier this month that also places a 75% excise tax on e-cigarettes.
Several other states have recently adopted emergency bans on the sale of flavored vaping products amid a nationwide outbreak of lung injuries among e-cigarette users and concerns about the growing popularity of the products among high school and middle school students.
Baker’s administration beginning in September had moved to temporarily ban on all vaping product sales. That ban will remain in effect until Dec. 11 while new vaping regulations are adopted in light of the first ban passed by a state legislature.
“We remain committed to doing everything we can to protect the public health,” Baker said during a news conference.
The law was enacted amid public alarm over a mysterious U.S. vaping-related respiratory illness that has sickened nearly 2,300 people and resulted in 47 deaths, according to government officials.
Health officials investigating the lung injuries have identified vitamin E acetate, believed to be used as a cutting agent in illicit vaping products containing marijuana components, as a “chemical of concern” in the outbreak.
The outbreak has coincided with the rising popularity of flavored vaping products among underage users, creating concerns about a new generation of Americans becoming addicted to nicotine products.
More than 27.5% of American high school students use e-cigarettes, up from 20.7% in 2018, according to a recent U.S. government study.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration in September said it would unveil a sweeping ban on most e-cigarette and vaping flavors. Concerns about the potential loss of jobs have prompted Trump, a Republican, to revisit the issue.
Baker said states can only do so much to regulate vaping, but “unfortunately it’s becoming increasingly clear the federal government is not going to act decisively.”
The Vapor Technology Association, a vaping industry trade group that unsuccessfully challenged Baker’s earlier vaping sales ban in court, signaled its opposition in a statement issued when the Massachusetts Senate passed the legislative ban.
“Bans don’t work; they never have,” Tony Abboud, the group’s executive director, said.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Bill Berkrot)