Will vape shops reopen Monday? Baker taking steps to keep ban in place

Vape shops in Massachusetts will not be allowed to reopen for sales next week, after all.

Last week, a Superior Court judge ruled that the state's ban was not properly issued and Governor Charlie Baker has decided to pursue an emergency regulatory proceeding that will allow his ban to remain in place for the time being.

"The Public Health Council met, voted unanimously to support the ban, and the paperwork will be filed next week," Baker said Friday.

Baker decided to follow the judge's direction and pursue the emergency proceeding. This change in process will force Baker's administration to write a small business impact statement and hold a public hearing sometime before Dec. 24.

"Our hope is that by the time we get to the end of this 4-month period, the CDC and others will have collected enough data that we'll have an idea of what we need to do, both in terms of informing the public, but also putting a regulatory framework in place with respect to vaping," he said.

Vape shop owners were holding out hope that they could reopen their stores next week, but now they're left disappointed.

"I cannot afford to pay the employees, I cannot sell anything," said Jacques Abboud.

Abboud is a French immigrant who opened his tobacco and vape shop in Lowell three years ago, immediately after the city voted to stop selling flavored tobacco to anyone younger than 21 years old.

While there's no state or federal law limiting the sale of tobacco products to adults only, dozens of Massachusetts cities and towns have voted their own policies to do so. One of those cities was Lowell and the results they saw were pretty staggering.

A new study by researchers at the Department of Public Health found just six months after Lowell's ban went into place, there was 70% less flavored tobacco products on store shelves. It also found the number of teenagers using both flavored and non-flavored tobacco dropped nearly 6% in six months.

Researchers compared the results to nearby Malden, which did not have a ban. They found no change in the availability of tobacco products and the number of teenage users actually increased.

>> Read the full study here

Abboud thinks it would be a good compromise to do the same thing with vaping products and only allow adults to purchase them, rather than banning their sale entirely.

"The constitution says you're a 21-year-old, you're allowed to do whatever you'd like to do, it's your constitutional right," he said.

The ban is having a big impact on business. Abboud had to take more than $100,000 worth of products off his shelves.

"I lost 60% of the sales," he said.

But Baker says it's all about keeping people safe.

"I don't think we'd be doing our jobs if we were out there letting the market continue to perform as it was before while these numbers of people who are severely injured and in some cases dying continue to mount, that’s not good public health and frankly it's not good government," said Baker.