Montana joins other states with vaping product bans
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana officials temporarily banned flavored e-cigarettes Wednesday after a judge ruled against vape shop owners who sued the state to keep their products on the shelves.
District Judge Jennifer Lint said in her ruling Tuesday that people’s health is threatened by the deadly outbreak of a lung illness tied to some vaping products and that flavored electronic cigarettes are making it easy for kids to become addicted to nicotine.
“Preventing further harm to the public health is more important than preventing economic harm to vapor product businesses,” Lint wrote.
With the ruling, Montana will join other states, including New York and Massachusetts, that have banned flavored e-cigarettes at the same time health officials are investigating vaping-related lung illnesses in the U.S. As of last week, there were 2,400 confirmed and probable cases of lung illnesses and 52 deaths nationwide have been attributed to vaping.
The 120-day ban took effect Wednesday afternoon, said Department of Public Health and Human Services spokesman Jon Ebelt.
The restrictions include the sale of all flavored e-cigarette products, including flavored nicotine, THC and CBD e-cigarette products, both in store and online. The rules do not require businesses to destroy their inventory.
Officials said the ban would give the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention time to identify the cause of the illnesses. Federal health officials are examining vitamin E acetate, an additive used as a thickening agent. When inhaled, it may interfere with normal lung functioning.
There have been seven vaping-related lung illnesses, including one death, in Montana, according to Ebelt.
Business owners argued that there was no connection between flavored vaping liquids and the rise of the lung injuries, which they said appear to be caused by black-market products. They also argued that they don’t sell to minors and that their products are used by people trying to quit or looking for a safer alternative to tobacco.
But the judge sided with state health officials, who said the rise of youth vaping and the unexplained increase in lung illnesses are two emergencies that left them no choice. Lint repeatedly said in her order that flavored vaping products provide an easy “on-ramp” to hook kids on nicotine, threatening the progress made in reducing tobacco use.
“This has always been about protecting our most vulnerable, and we are pleased that the court chose to stand with Montanans and their health by allowing the emergency rules to go forward,” Public Health and Human Services Director Sheila Hogan said in a statement.
Ron and Deanna Marshall, owners of one of the businesses that sued, Freedom Vapes, did not immediately return a message left at their Hamilton store.
Before the ruling, Freedom Vapes advertised a “Happy (Resistance) Hour” for Wednesday afternoon. The shop had planned to offer half-off prices for flavored nicotine liquid “until a judge makes a ruling.”
That Facebook post was later deleted and replaced with one that said, “We will be making an announcement soon on the flavored juice ban.”