HELENA — A statewide ban on flavored vaping products could go into effect this week, which would mean vaping retailers would only be able to sell tobacco-flavored juices. The Bullock administration announced in early October that it would ban the sale of flavored e-cigarette products in Montana, citing the rise of vaping illness and use of the products by teen-agers. Three Montana vape shops and their trade association filed suit October 17 to block the ban and have it declared illegal.
District Judge Jennifer Lint of Hamilton issued a temporary restraining order blocking the ban the next day and held a hearing October 31 and November 1 on whether to make that TRO permanent, while she decided the case.
But the Bullock administration said last week that her TRO technically expired, at the latest, on November 1, and that it should wait no longer to enforce the ban. “The imminent threats to public health and safety that precipitated the rules are ongoing and demand a public-health response,” the administration wrote in its court notice last Friday.
The State of Montana last week notified the court that it intends to start enforcing the emergency ban on Wednesday, December 18th, absent any court action. But attorneys for the vape-shop owners who filed a lawsuit to stop the ban asked the presiding judge to extend a temporary order blocking the state from enforcing the ban.
Vaping retailers told MTN New that they’ve been preparing for the ban, which they say will have a huge effect on their businesses and customers. Queen’s Palace, located off Last Chance Gulch in Helena, sees hundreds of customers each week. Owner Monica Schultz said, “It’s tough. We really don’t know what’s going to happen with the current status of things legally.” The company saw an influx of customers on Monday coming in to stock up on their vaping products, worried that it won’t be there after Wednesday.
“It’s going to be a huge loss in our income,” said Schultz. “But we’re not closing, we’ll still be here.” Schultz opened Queen’s Palace a year ago with the intent of helping others quit smoking traditional cigarettes. She told MTN she’s worried about her customers returning to their previous unhealthy habits.
“Having to quit [vaping] is going to be a huge thing for a lot of different people,” explained Schultz. “It’s helped them get off of cigarettes into a more healthy alternative and eventually they can cut back and stop. I smoked for 25 years. It’s the one thing that got me to stop, and it wasn’t the tobacco flavored cause that’s the first thing I tried.”
Queen’s Palace customer Dallas Davis smoked two packs a day for 15 years. He wanted to quit tobacco for his kids and vaping was the only thing that worked. “I never smoked in the house, but they knew and they hated it,” said Davis. “Vaping has changed my relationship with my children because there isn’t that smell or bad breath that comes with smoking. I talk to my kids about what vaping is and addiction, and they’ve never once wanted to or asked to use my vape.”
The state's reasoning for the ban is due to the proportions of youth addiction to flavors as well as the short- and long-term injuries from e-cigarette use. The ban will not require owners to destroy their existing inventory, but many products have "best by" dates before the 120-day ban is over.
Schultz says she only buys from reputable companies, makes sure to check every person’s ID that wants to buy, and her shop doesn’t sell Juul products. “I have a pretty strict set of morals. I want people to have better lives and I’d rather have people vape than smoke because we know smoking causes cancer and it’s highly addictive,” said Schultz.
Here is a timeline of events leading up to this week:
- AUG 30: Vaping advocate blames lung issues on THC-filled, illegal cartridges
- SEP 20: Montana reports 1st case of severe pulmonary disease linked to vaping
- OCT 8: E-cigarettes will be banned temporarily in Montana
- OCT 16: Montana's first death associated with vaping
- OCT 17: MT vape shops sue to block Gov. Bullock’s ban on flavored products
- OCT 18: Judge blocks Bullock’s ban on flavored vaping products
- NOV 8: Vaping illness - Vitamin E acetate and THC may be to blame
Latest information from the CDC website:
- Analyses of bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid samples (fluid samples collected from the lungs) of patients with e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) identified vitamin E acetate , an additive in some THC-containing e-cigarette, or vaping, products.
- CDC laboratory test results of BAL fluid samples from 29 patients submitted to CDC from 10 states found vitamin E acetate in all of the samples.
- THC was identified in 82% of the samples and nicotine was identified in 62% of the samples.
- CDC tested for a range of other chemicals that might be found in e-cigarette, or vaping, products, including plant oils, petroleum distillates like mineral oil, MCT oil, and terpenes (which are compounds found in or added to THC products). None of these chemicals of concern were detected in the BAL fluid samples tested.
- This is the first time that we have detected a chemical of concern in biologic samples from patients with these lung injuries. These findings provide direct evidence of vitamin E acetate at the primary site of injury within the lungs.
- These findings complement the ongoing work of the FDA and some state public health laboratories to characterize e-liquid exposures and inform the ongoing multistate outbreak.
About the Outbreak:
- CDC is only reporting hospitalized EVALI cases and EVALI deaths regardless of hospitalization status. CDC has removed nonhospitalized cases from previously reported case counts. See Public Health Reporting for more information.
- As of December 10, 2019, a total of 2,409 hospitalized EVALI cases have been reported to CDC from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories (Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands).
- Fifty-two deaths have been confirmed in 26 states and the District of Columbia (as of December 10, 2019).
- Although the number of reported cases appears to be declining, states are still reporting new hospitalized EVALI cases to CDC on a weekly basis and should remain vigilant with EVALI case finding and reporting.