Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has called for a temporary statewide ban on the sale of all e-cigarettes and vaping products in response to a nationwide outbreak of lung injuries associated with vaping.
“I’m officially declaring a public health emergency in the Commonwealth due to severe lung disease associated with the use of e-cigarettes and marijuana-infused vaping products,” Baker said during a press conference on Tuesday.
“I’m requesting that the public health council order a four-month temporary ban on the sale of all vaping products in retail establishments, online and through any other means, effective immediately,” he said. “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.”
Massachusetts would be the first state to issue such a ban, which would last through January 25, 2020. It would apply to all vaping products and devices, including tobacco and marijuana, according to the governor’s office.
The ban comes in wake of a multi-state outbreak of lung injuries associated with vaping, which is currently being investigated by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Food and Drug Administration.
There have been at least 530 cases of lung injury reported across 38 states and the US Virgin Islands, according to the CDC. Seven people have died. All reported cases have a history of e-cigarette product use or vaping.
In a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on Capitol Hill Tuesday, CDC Principal Deputy Director Dr. Anne Schuchat said that the cause of the injuries and deaths remains unknown.
“We don’t know the cause. No single product, brand, substance or additive has been linked to all cases. This investigation is ongoing and it’s very dynamic,” Schuchat said. “CDC is working closely with state and local public health [departments], with the FDA and clinical community, to get to the bottom of this.”
CDC recommends that people consider refraining from using e-cigarette or vaping products, and for adults who used e-cigarettes to quit cigarette smoking, it’s recommended to not return to smoking cigarettes.
Earlier this month, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health mandated that physicians in the state immediately report any unexplained vaping-associated lung disease to the department.
As of Tuesday, 61 cases have been reported to the department, according to the governor’s office. Three confirmed cases and two probable cases of vaping-associated lung injury in the state have already been reported to the CDC. The rest are pending further analysis.
During the temporary ban in Massachusetts, the state administration will work with medical experts, state and federal officials to better understand vaping illnesses and work on additional steps to address this public health crisis, according to the governor’s office.
The administration will also work on providing more resources for a public awareness campaign and smoking cessation programs.
“Vaping is a public health crisis and it is imperative that we understand its impact at both the individual and overall health care system level,” Marylou Sudders, Massachusetts’ Secretary of the Executive Office of Health & Human Services, said in a news release on Tuesday.
“As a result of the public health emergency, the Commonwealth is implementing a statewide standing order for nicotine replacement products, like gum and patches, which will allow people to access these products as a covered benefit through their insurance without requiring an individual prescription,” Sanders said in the release.
Earlier this month, Michigan banned the sale of flavored e-cigarettes and New York banned most flavored e-cigarettes. In June, San Francisco became the first US city to effectively ban all e-cigarette sales.