Vape sales resume, with a warning from state health commissioner

BOSTON, MA – OCTOBER 18: Dr. Monica Bharel, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health testifies during a hearing on the vape ban, October 18, 2019 in BOSTON, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Chris Christo/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

BOSTON – The state Public Health Council approved new regulations for vaping Wednesday, putting in place tighter restrictions on the sale of e-cigarettes and other vaping products that spurred a public health emergency this year.

The new regulations end the emergency ban on all vaping product sales in the state that Gov. Charlie Baker implemented in September amid a national outbreak of vaping-related lung disease, including three deaths in Massachusetts.

That ban, which had been whittled away by the courts, had been set to lift on Dec. 24 but Baker announced late last month that it would instead remain in effect through Dec. 11.

“We don’t understand what is causing these illnesses,” Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel told reporters after the new regulations were approved Wednesday.

“From a public health point of view, we cannot recommend that anybody use vaping or e-cigarette products at this time. What the regulations do is allow a regulatory and legal framework to limit the access to these products, put in place warnings and signages so people can understand their risk and, importantly, limit access for youth and young people,” she said.

The new regulations — which will take effect as soon as they are filed with the secretary of state’s office Wednesday — will require shops that sell vaping products to post signs warning of the dangers of severe lung disease and other health risks, and keep all vaping products behind the counter; prohibit the sale of out-of-package tobacco or vaping cartridge refills; require that all vaping liquid containing nicotine be packaged in child-resistant packaging; clarify the public health commissioner’s authority to prohibit the sale of a vaping product that is determined to cause vaping-related lung illness or otherwise pose a substantial health risk; establish inspection procedures to determine that retailers are in compliance with the law; and set out a series of fines and punishments for anyone who violates the rules.

Stores will be allowed to resume selling vaping products Wednesday, Bharel said, as long as they are in compliance with the new regulations.