Massachusetts Ends Moratorium On All Vapes Sales, Puts New Rules In Place | WAMC

Massachusetts Ends Moratorium On All Vapes Sales, Puts New Rules In Place

Dec 11, 2019

A statewide moratorium on the sale of all vaping products in Massachusetts has ended. But flavored nicotine vape pods are permanently banned except in smoking bars and hookah lounges. The fate of marijuana vapes is up to the Cannabis Control Commission.
Credit WAMC file photo

      A ban on the sale of all nicotine vaping products in Massachusetts was lifted today.  But there are tough new restrictions. 

     Gov. Charlie Baker announced a temporary ban on the sale of all vaping products back in September in response to a growing number of lung illnesses and deaths in Massachusetts and across the country that health officials had linked to vaping.

    " We as a Commonwealth need to pause sales in order for our medical experts to collect more information on what is driving these life-threatening vaping illnesses," Baker said on September 24th.

     Although scientists have not determined the cause of the illness, Baker said Tuesday that he is comfortable lifting the ban.

   "Our view all along was the ban was designed to do two things; number one, restrict these products especially from kids until we knew more about what was causing the injuries and deaths and number two, put a regulatory framework in place to both inform people about the dangers of vaping and restrict access to the products to people over the age of 21," Baker said.

     Last month, Baker signed legislation that outlaws the retail sale of flavored vaping nicotine products except in smoking bars and hookah lounges for on-site consumption.  The sale of flavored chewing tobacco and menthol cigarettes will be banned as of June 2020.

    The new law also requires that vaping products with a nicotine concentration of more than 35 milligrams per milliliter be sold only in plus-21 tobacco stores.

     Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary Mary Lou Sudders said the law gives state officials new powers to regulate vaping.

    " The administration will consider other actions including prohibiting the sale of vaping product or products if it is determined by the CDC ( Centers for Disease Control) or the FDA ( Food and Drug Administration) that the product, or products, are the cause of vaping-related illness," said Sudders.

     Before vaping products can go back on the shelves, retailers will have to put up signs warning customers about health risks.

      The temporary ban was challenged in court, where it was defended by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.  She said a generation of teenagers is in danger of getting hooked on e-cigarettes.

     " This is really simply a rip from the playbook of Big Tobacco," said Healey.  " That is why you see these ridiculous flavors like cotton candy and sour patch kids that appeal to young people."

      Vaping industry groups say the new law and regulations in Massachusetts will just send customers across state lines or to the black market.  

      Baker said the federal government needs to step in.

      "I think what we are doing in Massachusetts is the right approach, other states are going to pursue other approaches in the absence of federal policy," said Baker.

       While the moratorium on nicotine vaping products is ending, a ban on marijuana vapes remains in place.

        The Cannabis Control Commission, which earlier this year ordered a quarantine on marijuana-infused vaping products, is scheduled to meet on December 19th.