The sale of flavored e-cigarettes will be banned temporarily in Montana

The emergency rules will take effect on October 22 and last for 120 days
Posted at 7:13 PM, Oct 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-09 00:09:42-04

GREAT FALLS — Governor Steve Bullock on Tuesday directed the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services to implement emergency administrative rules to temporarily prohibit the sale of flavored e-cigarettes.

The emergency rules will take effect on October 22 and last for 120 days, the maximum time allowed by law. The ban includes the sale of all flavored e-cigarette products, including flavored nicotine, THC, and CBD vaping products, in-store and online. The ban does not require retailers to destroy their existing inventory.

The ban on flavored e-cigarettes, which are widely marketed to and used by young people, aims to reduce e-cigarette use while authorities investigate what product or chemical is causing critical illness across the country and develop an evidence-based response.

Two cases were recently confirmed in Montana, including a person in their 20s from Gallatin County and a person in their 30s from Yellowstone County.

Nationwide, it's estimated that 1,080 confirmed and probable cases and 21 deaths linked to e-cigarette use have been identified in 48 states and one U.S. territory. More than half the cases involve patients under 25 years of age.

According to the press release, six other states have taken similar action - Washington, Oregon, Michigan, Rhode Island, New York, and Massachusetts. In addition, Utah has passed emergency rules limiting where e-cigarettes can be sold and California’s governor has issued an executive order to increase public awareness and develop warning labels.

The American Vaping Association said in a press release that Bullock's decision is "rash and unfounded," and that Bullock and DPHHS should expect a legal challenge in court.

The press release states: "This is yet another unfortunate snap decision where regulators have whole-heartedly accepted the rhetoric of the anti-vaping activists who have been using scare tactics instead of science to push for bans. These bans rob the millions of smokers who are trying quit, of their ability to do so, forcing them to turn back to cigarettes. Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians have both estimated vaping to be at least 95% less harmful than smoking. Estimates from John Dunham & Associates indicate that there are more than 50 vapor-focused businesses throughout Montana could be shut down by this senseless ban."

Ron Marshall is the co-owner of Freedom Vapes, LLC, which operates vape shops in Bozeman, Belgrade, and Hamilton. He said vaping retailers in Montana are well-regulated and haven’t had any connection to the recent illnesses, which he blamed specifically on illicit vape cartridges containing THC.

“Our industry’s been in business for almost 20 years now,” Marshall said. “We’ve never had any serious complications from anything related to the e-cigarette nicotine industry.”

Marshall estimated about 95 percent of his sales are for flavored products. He said adult customers who use e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking prefer flavors because they want to get away from the taste of tobacco. “By banning all flavored e-liquids, you’re probably going to put every vape shop in the state out of business at the end of 120 days, because there’s no business out there that I know of that can stay up and running by being overregulated to stop selling a product,” he said.

Marshall said he knows several legal challenges to Montana’s rules are already in the works. However, Bullock said he’s confident the state has the authority to make this decision. “I would love to think that industry would do the responsible thing and not bring action on this, but if they do, we’re prepared for that,” he said.

The federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has more information on its website , including this overview:

  • As of October 1st, 1,080 lung injury cases associated with using e-cigarette, or vaping, products have been reported to CDC from 48 states and 1 U.S. territory.
  • Eighteen deaths have been confirmed in 15 states.
  • All patients have reported a history of using e-cigarette, or vaping, products.
  • Most patients report a history of using THC-containing products. The latest national and regional findings suggest products containing THC play a role in the outbreak.
  • Approximately 70% of patients are male.
  • Approximately 80% of patients are under 35 years old.
    • 16% of patients are under 18 years old
    • 21% of patients are 18 to 20 years old
  • The specific chemical exposure(s) causing lung injuries associated with e-cigarette use, or vaping, remains unknown at this time.
  • No single product or substance has been linked to all lung injury cases.
    • The outbreak is occurring in the context of a dynamic marketplace for e-cigarette, or vaping, products, which may have a mix of ingredients, complex packaging and supply chains, and include potentially illicit substances.
    • Users may not know what is in their e-cigarette or e-liquid solutions. Many of the products and substances can be modified by suppliers or users. They can be obtained from stores, online retailers, from informal sources (e.g. friends, family members), or “off the street.”
  • More information is needed to know whether one or more e-cigarette or vaping products, substances, or brands is responsible for the outbreak.