The effects of the Mass. vape ban: Price hikes and black market products

Empty shelves, uncertainty as businesses react to vape ban

BOSTON — It's been only 24 hours since Governor Baker issued a public health emergency, banning the sale of any and all vape products - and we're already seeing the ripple effects.

Now that it's illegal to buy anything vape-related, from e-cigarettes to THC vapes, Massachusetts residents say they have no other option but to go to a different state, try to find their products online or smoke something else; all options that are going to cost them more money.

Joe Martin openly admits he smokes marijuana and is a regular at local dispensaries. However, in just one day, he noticed the prices at his local shop had already increased.

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"I think it [used to be] $55 for an eighth of marijuana, [now] it’s $75," said Keith Matthews.

"I asked them, 'Why is it so expensive here?' and they were like, 'It has nothing to do with vapes, but we did have a price increase'. Ok," said Martin."

Stores like Verilife in Wareham now have to surcharge on some marijuana products since they can no longer sell vaping products.

A Verilife spokesperson told Boston 25 News:

"Certainly, this is regrettable and temporary. In the meantime, we will actively work with the administration and our suppliers to make our products more affordable."

The Baker administration has already asked local health departments to begin enforcing the ban.

Boards of health across the state are issuing cease and desist letters to stores that sell vaping products. If stores continue to sell the products, they'll face fines of up to $1,000 per item, per sale and could eventually have to forfeit their products.

People who will now turn to illegal websites in order to buy black market vapes and cartridges are actually more at risk for developing the vaping-related illness that has killed 10 people across the country and injured hundreds.

"They’re gambling with peoples lives the stuff just isn’t safe," said Matthews. "You’re going to go to black market you’re going to get a low budget situation."

Because they're sold in the black market, these vapes and cartridges aren't regulated and contain dangerous and harmful chemicals that pose a serious risk to public health.

"What’s gonna happen is the people that use it for practical uses are no longer going to be able to do it and people that turn to the black market to get what they need are still going to do that," said Martin.

Representatives from state and local health departments both said the goal is to eventually help people stop smoking and they offer multiple resources for that. In the meantime, they said they expect all online retailers to voluntarily comply with their requests.

State health officials also added that, as a result of the public health emergency, the Commonwealth is implementing a statewide standing order for nicotine replacement products, like gum and patches.

The state says the nicotine replacement products will be a covered benefit through residents' insurance without requiring an individual prescription, similar to what they did to increase access to naloxone.

It is unclear what, if anything, will be done for marijuana users who primarily vape THC and CBD.

Smokers in need of help can turn to the Massachusetts Smoker's Helpline, which is a free and confidential service for those looking to end their tobacco abuse. The service includes specialized coaching, including behavioral health counseling and connection to local support groups.

To find help in quitting tobacco, you can either call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit makesmokinghistory.org. Those who call the helpline will have access to 8 weeks of nicotine replacement therapy for free.

To learn more about the vaping ban and the public health emergency, you can visit the state's website here.