Governors interested in regional approach for vaping rules

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The governors of Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut said Thursday that they're interested in taking a regional approach to regulating vaping in the future.

They met privately Thursday to discuss issues of regional importance. Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, hosted Republican Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont of Connecticut for lunch at Rhode Island College in Providence.

They said after the meeting that they agreed a consistent regulatory framework for vaping would make sense, given the proximity of the states, though their states' legislative leaders would have to agree. They also discussed education, health care and transportation.

Baker announced a statewide ban in September on the sale of vaping products for four months, a measure that has been challenged in court. Raimondo signed an executive order banning sales of flavored vaping products, also in September, which was challenged in court Wednesday.

Lamont is trying to figure out how to regulate vaping, after expressing an interest in banning flavored vaping products. A new law just took effect in Connecticut that increased the age to 21 for someone to purchase vaping products.

Going forward, Raimondo said, "we are going to make an effort to try to regionalize our approach." If the states take drastically different approaches, that creates enforcement issues, Baker added.

The governors held their first private meeting with one another in July at Eastern Connecticut State University, an event organized by Lamont. Baker plans to host the group in the next few months.

Lamont described it as a "very constructive relationship."

The governors said they've made progress since their first meeting on data sharing and transportation issues, with transit officials continuing to discuss an express commuter train route between Providence and Boston. The states are sharing wage and workforce data and the governors discussed sharing educational attainment data as well, to evaluate which strategies are helping students the most.

Since the state of Rhode Island is taking over the struggling Providence school district, Baker told Raimondo Thursday about Massachusetts' experience with Lawrence Public Schools entering into state receivership. Baker also shared his state's experiences with legalizing recreational marijuana and talked about legislation he introduced Friday aimed at overhauling Massachusetts' health care system by restricting how hospitals and doctors bill patients and requiring walk-in clinics to treat low-income patients on Medicaid.

The governors said they've requested proposals so they can purchase information technology software together to save money.

"If you can work together on the small things, you can work together on the big things," Raimondo said. "We have all come from the private sector. We want to fix things. We want to fix problems in our states and we're looking for practical solutions."