Baker declares public health emergency, bans sale of all vaping products

BOSTON — Governor Charlie Baker has issued a public health emergency and announced a temporary ban on the sale of all vaping products, including both tobacco and marijuana-infused ones.

Baker held a news conference Tuesday afternoon with Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders, and Department of Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel "related to the public health issues of vaping in the Commonwealth."

Baker announced the four-month ban of all vaping products in Massachusetts, effective immediately. The ban prohibits the sale of all flavored and non-flavored products, including mint and menthol.

He says the goal of the temporary ban is to allow medical experts to collect more information about what he calls an outbreak of severe lung disease associated with vaping products.

"We know [the] current lung disease we are seeing is related to something in the vaping products," said Dr. Monica Bharel. "We don't know what."

Baker, Polito, Sudders and Bharel all took the podium to explain that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still has little information as to what is causing the spike in illnesses, which have been linked to 530 cases nationwide and 61 reported possible cases in the Commonwealth.

"I'm declaring this public health emergency because medical and disease control experts have been tracking a rapidly increasing number of vaping related illnesses that in some cases have lead to death... Nobody seems to know what it is about vaping that is creating this toxic chemical lung injury."

— Governor Charlie Baker

Baker says he expects compliance from in-store establishments and online retailers and explained that local boards of health and law enforcement will play a big role in enforcing the ban.

He says it may take a little time to get products off the shelves, but says local boards of health have the capacity to issue fines and confiscate products from retailers who do not comply.

State health officials commended the unprecedented measure, making Massachusetts the first state to enact an immediate state-wide measure universally banning all electronic cigarette sales.

Related: As Mass. temporarily bans vapes, NH eyes an increase in sales

"A historic moment where we saw a disease affecting children and adults alike," Bharel said. "And you can see we took action."

Just last week, the City of Boston cracked down on vaping with changes to existing regulations on tobacco and nicotine products.

"We as a Commonwealth need to pause sales for our medical experts to collect more information about what is driving these life-threatening vaping-related illnesses," said Gov. Baker.

"It's also unclear what types of additives or parts of [the] device are causing these health problems [...]  It's pretty clear there is something going on with vaping and everybody should keep that in mind."

Greg Conley, the president of the American Vaping Association issued a statement shortly after Gov. Baker's announcement.

In the four months this ban will be in effect, approximately 150,000 people across the United States will die from smoking cigarettes. With the evidence on these illnesses continuing to point squarely at illicit and contaminated THC cartridges, particularly in the northeast U.S., this ban on nicotine vaping products is absolutely absurd. We look forward to supporting lawsuits against Gov. Baker's illegal and unconstitutional ban.

Connecticut and New York health authorities have been very clear that THC vaping products are causing these illnesses. We agree with the FDA -- if you don't want to die or end up in the hospital, stop vaping illicit marijuana oils.

>> Additional vaping content:

Comments on this article