In response to the recent uptick of vaping-related injuries, Gov. Charlie Baker has ordered a four-month ban on the sale of all vaping products in Massachusetts on Sept. 24.
“I think we’re going to be left with an epidemic not just of addiction, but of death and disease,” said Richard Daynard, president of the Public Health Advocacy Institute at the Northeastern University School of Law.
Through Oct. 15, the Center for Disease Control has identified 1,479 cases of lung injuries associated with the use of e-cigarettes across the nation, with 33 confirmed deaths. In Massachusetts, there are 29 cases of such injuries, in 25 of which the patients were hospitalized. Additionally, the state Department of Public Health has received 152 reports of suspected vaping-related injuries in the state, 60 of which are currently under investigation and 63 of which have been ruled out per CDC criteria, as reported by the Boston Herald.
The crisis has a particular gravity here in Massachusetts with the legalization of recreational use of marijuana, as there many vapor products contain THC, the main compound found in cannabis.
“Among the patients who are reporting these illnesses, as lot of them are reporting using THC-containing products,” revealed Emily Nink, policy associate at Northeastern’s Public Health and Tobacco Policy Center. The CDC has found that THC was present in most samples from patients suffering vaping-related injuries, and that most of these patients reported a history of using THC products.
According to Nink, Massachusetts’ recent ban is so widespread because of the state’s recreational marijuana legalization. The extensive marijuana use in the state has allowed the ban to be much more comprehensive than any of the eight other states have issued some form of temporary ban on vaping products within the last two months, making it “the most sweeping prohibition targeting electronic cigarettes in the United States,” The Boston Globe reported.
But many are unhappy with Gov. Baker’s recent ban.
“It’s an overreaction,” insisted Mohammed Belkes, an employee at Symphony Smoke Shop. “It’s the same approach as if someone did heroin with a shot through a syringe and he died, and the government banned all syringes.
Many stores like Symphony Smoke Shop, which sells primarily tobacco and vaping products, have been hit hard by the ban, as their business rely heavily on the sale of the recently banned products.
“Vape is a big part of the business, you’re looking at almost 45 percent,” Belkes said of the banned products in his store.
There is plenty of skepticism surrounding the ban from public health professionals, as well.
“The major downside of the ban is that there are some people who tried everything else to quit smoking and switch to vaping,” Daynard said. However, he insisted that this is in fact a small population: “I think that’s a smaller group – much, much smaller – than the people who have been hooked on these products.”
Some are also unsure on the practicality of Baker’s sweeping ban. “I think if the legislature were to consider something so comprehensive as to prohibit the sale of all e-cigarettes, that would be kind of surprising to me,” Ninks admitted. “I think it would be more likely that they would consider restricting the sale in a more limited way.”
But as the ban continues, state public health officials are working to research the vaping-injury crisis, testing samples from the patients suffering from the injuries.
“They’re trying to discern what products patients were using,” Ninks said. “A lot of times, it’s been really difficult because some of the patients are so injured that they can’t actually speak.”
Back to Top