BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday announced a four-month ban on the sale of all vaping products in Massachusetts.
Baker made the announcement at a press conference where he said he was declaring a public health emergency in connection with vaping-related lung illnesses. Hundreds of cases of the illness have been reported nationwide and Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel has already ordered all cases to be reported to the Department of Public Health for the next year.
“We as a commonwealth need to pause sales in order for our medical experts to collect more information about what is driving these life-threatening vaping-related illnesses,” Baker said.
The temporary ban will apply to flavored and non-flavored vaping products, Baker said, in retail stores and online. The ban applies to all vaping products and devices, including tobacco and marijuana. It takes effect immediately.
During a radio interview earlier Tuesday, Senate President Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, said, “This is a public health crisis.”
Trump administration officials earlier this month announced plans to remove flavored e-cigarette products from the market.
Baker’s decision did not go over well with retailers that sell vape products. One shop based in Danvers at the Liberty Tree Mall, Vapor Zone, was completely closed today with a sign saying "temporarily closed."
State Rep. Ted Speliotis, D - Danvers, said he was surprised at how quickly the ban went into effect without a lead up to let stores clean out their existing inventory.
"It's pretty radical to be honest," he said. "I've never heard of a total ban overnight."
Still, he felt the state needed to grapple with potential health risks of vaping products, especially as he'd heard of more and more schools in his district attempt to crack down on student use and abuse.
"Every superintendent in my district talked about the dangers of vaping," he said.
The immediate ban immediately set off a firestorm among shops which sell vaporizers and vaping products.
“I’m so disappointed, I’m very upset,” said Stacy Poritzky, co-owner of Vape Daddy’s, which sells vape products and oils at locations in Framingham, Newton and Braintree.
Poritzky said the four-month ban will put Vape Daddy’s out of business.
She mentioned there is no hard evidence linking vape products and nicotine juice with reported lung illnesses. Black market products, including vape oils that aren’t regulated, appear to be the threat among the lung illnesses, according to Poritzky, so she wonders why there isn’t more of an effort to eliminate them.
Vape Daddy’s sales are 60% “juice” and 40% devices to heat the juice, and Poritzky said Baker should at least let businesses sell the devices.
Baker is hurting the thousands of adults who vape to get away from the nicotine in cigarettes, Poritzky said, and she blamed the media for its “very misleading” reporting.
Turning her attention to Juul, a major player in the Vape market, Poritzky blamed the San Francisco-based company for selling its products in convenience stores and gas stations, making them more accessible to underage smokers.
In a statement emailed to the Daily News, Juul said: “Removing e-cigarettes from the market will create a thriving black market of counterfeit and compatible products, made with unknown ingredients under unknown manufacturing standards, drive former adult smokers who successfully use vapor products back to cigarettes and deny the opportunity for current adult smokers to have alternatives.”
Poritzky called Baker’s decision a “fascinating example of over-regulation.”
But Sam Wong, Framigham’s public health director, disagreed.
Wong said he needs to wait and see the final language in the ban, but he generally supports it.
As for vape companies that sell products to adolescents, Wong said they are “creating a new generation of addiction to nicotine.”
There are unintended consequences to Baker’s move, said Judith Styer, director of Health and Wellness in the Framingham Public Schools.
The district must now develop programs to help those students who will experience nicotine withdrawal, because they won’t have access to vape products.
About 5 percent of Framingham High School students report vaping daily, which translates to approximately 100 students, Styer said.
Access to black market products could fill the void, which concerns Styer.
The plan, according to Styer, is to convene local pediatricians and school nurses on how to help students connect with a nicotine-cessation program.
Daily News multimedia journalist Henry Schwan and Tim McCarthy of the Herald-Citzen contributed to this report.