Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker set precedent this past month by declaring a public health emergency and announcing the nation’s strictest vaping prohibition yet. The Republican governor announced the four-month ban after hundreds of national vaping-related lung illnesses and numerous deaths have been reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of those illnesses, at least forty-six have been reported thus far in Massachusetts, with sixteen confirmed to be directly related to vaping. The ban spans both online and retail stores, and it includes both tobacco and marijuana products. In a statement, Baker’s office emphasized the lack of understanding of the cause of these lung illnesses along with the uncertainty of the long-term effects of using these products. The governor’s office also emphasized that the administration will work with medical experts while the ban is in effect.
The ban went into effect immediately and will last through January 25, 2020. However, numerous attempts to appeal the ban have been made. In late October, Superior Court Judge Douglas Wilkins ruled that Governor Baker and his administration failed to research the impacts that the ban would have on small businesses. Baker’s administration, though, has argued that the law establishes that the governor has the authority to handle a public health emergency in different capacities. Despite this ruling, on October 25, the Public Health Council upheld Baker’s ban with a unanimous vote; therefore, keeping the ban in place for now. The regulation was filed with the Secretary of the Commonwealth the following Monday.
So far in the country, New York, Michigan, Rhode Island, Washington, and California have all launched bans on vaping products in some capacity, but none are as severe as Massachusetts’s. In D.C., President Donald Trump’s administration has announced that the most effective manner of cracking down on teen vape usage would be banning flavored vape products, perhaps hinting at a possible national ban.
In 2018, the FDA expanded its successful youth tobacco prevention campaign known as “The Real Cost”. This expansion hoped to reach more than 10 million youth between the ages of 12-17 who have either used e-cigarettes or would be open to using them, and it educates them on the potential risks. The campaign advertises these risks online, in schools, and on social media.
More efforts to educate adolescents include a campaign by the Truth Initiative® which launched “Safer ≠ Safe”. This campaign, also launched in 2018, focuses on the many misconceptions that adolescents have regarding vape product usage and providing them with accurate information and research about the effects of vape products.
Many experts have claimed that vaping poses severe health risks for many people, particularly teenagers and young adults, especially because most e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Nicotine is an extremely addictive drug that is found in regular cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products. A recent CDC study found that 99% of e-cigarettes sold in the United States contain nicotine. A general concern of many experts and health specialists is that people, especially teenagers, do not realize that many e-cigarette labels do not disclose that the product contains nicotine. Worse, some falsely label their products as containing 0% of nicotine when they do in fact contain it. Experts worry that teens who use these products do not grasp the effects that nicotine has on their bodies, especially their brains. The human brain is not fully developed until one reaches twenty-five years of age. Therefore, anyone using nicotine products before age twenty-five puts their neurological health at risk. Such risks include altering the frontal lobe (the part of the brain that controls human attention), learning, mood, and impulse control. Some even argue that using nicotine products in one’s adolescence may increase the risk of future addiction to other drugs.
Another concern of experts is the fact that the e-cigarette aerosol that users breathe from vaping products can be harmful to their lungs and bystanders’ lungs as it exposes both parties to harmful substances. One hazardous chemical in vape products is the flavoring diacetyl which has been linked to several severe reparatory illnesses.
One theory that many adolescent users of vape products argue is that e-cigarettes are safer than regular cigarettes. Experts say that e-cigarettes expose users to fewer chemicals than burned cigarettes. However, cigarettes are known to kill half of all people who smoke from them, according to the CDC.