Sept. 25 (UPI) — In the wake of recent vaping-related illnesses and deaths, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker ordered a four-month ban on the sale of all vaping products in his state Tuesday.
Declaring the matter a public health emergency, Baker said the ban will extend to both tobacco and marijuana e-cigarettes. Massachusetts officials say they believe the statewide ban to be the first of its kind in the United States.
“E-cigarette usage is exploding and it’s clear there’s a very real danger to the population,” Baker said in a news conference. “This temporary ban will allow state government and medical providers the time they need to understand the dangers and respond accordingly.”
Nine deaths nationwide have recently been linked to vaping, with Massachusetts having reported five cases of vaping-related illness to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — though 56 more cases have been reported to the state’s department of health.
A total of 530 vaping-related illnesses have been reported throughout the United States, according to the CDC.
To date, the Massachusetts ban is the most aggressive measure taken by any state to address the growing health concern. Earlier this month, both New York and Michigan outlawed the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, and in June, San Francisco became the first major city in the country to ban the distribution or sale of all e-cigarette products.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week also revealed it has launched a criminal investigation into the the cause of the vape-related illnesses and deaths.
“Nobody seems to really know what it is about vaping that’s creating this toxic chemical lung injury,” Baker said. “Clearly in many cases these are, in fact, dangerous to peoples’ health.”
While the growing health concern is real, one of Massachusetts’ top marijuana officials, Shaleen Title, of the Cannabis Control Commission, took to Twitter to strongly criticize Baker’s order because of the effects it may have on legal consumers and the risks it could potentially raise for them.
“This is a terrible decision,” Title wrote. “Purposely pushing people into the illicit market — precisely where the dangerous products are — goes against every principle of public health and harm reduction. It is dangerous, short-sighted, and undermines the benefits of legal regulation.”
Baker called the current outbreak “deeply troubling,” noting that he met with a number of doctors and other medical professionals before announcing the new measure.
“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,” Baker said.
In support of the governor’s action, the Massachusetts Public Health Council formally approved the ban Tuesday afternoon, with the Department of Public Health immediately putting it into effect.