Gov: NJ should ban e-cigarette flavours
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While the governor’s call comes after recommendations for a special task force, Assemblyman Herb Conaway, D-7 of Delran, first proposed banning flavored e-cigarettes in 2017, along with companion legislation to require the state to create regulations and licensing for manufacturers, wholesale dealers, distributor and retail dealers of vaping products, including the liquid cartridges often used in the electronic devices.
TRENTON — Vaping poses a health threat and New Jersey should move to ban flavoured e-cigarettes, Gov. Phil Murphy and his administration said Thursday, announcing the findings of a task force examining a recent nationwide outbreak associated with more than a dozen deaths.
Murphy unveiled the task force’s recommendations three weeks after he established it and soon after the state announced its first death associated with vaping.
Most of the recommendations, including banning the sales of flavoured e-cigarettes, will require legislation, he said.
Assemblyman Herb Conaway, D-7 of Delran, first proposed banning flavored e-cigarettes in 2017, along with companion legislation to require the state to create regulations and licensing for manufacturers, wholesale dealers, distributors and retail dealers of vaping products, including the liquid cartridges often used in the electronic devices.
Neither of the two bills has made it to the full Assembly or Senate for votes, but Conaway, the Legislature’s only physician and the director of the Burlington County Department of Health, said last month there’s increasing support urgency to enact vaping controls.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday 1,080 confirmed and probable cases have been reported in 48 states and one U.S. territory as of Tuesday afternoon. The count includes 18 deaths in 15 states. More than a third of patients are under age 21, but the deaths have been older adults who apparently had more difficulty recovering.
“Our overriding conclusion is that electronic smoking devices pose a threat to public health particularly the health and wellbeing of our youth,”acting New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said.
Other states and federal officials are also pushing through flavour restrictions designed to curb underage vaping. Michigan became the first state to ban flavoured vaping products last week and President Donald Trump announced last month his administration plans to propose a similar nationwide ban that would remove all e-cigarette flavours except tobacco.
No major e-cigarette company has been directly tied to the ailments, and federal investigators say most people affected by the lung problems report that they had vaped THC, the ingredient in marijuana that produces a high.
Among the other changes that Murphy is calling for include barring the online sale of e-cigarettes and vaping supplies as well as increasing penalties for retailers who knowingly sell to underage buyers.
Democratic Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin called the governor’s plan “comprehensive and thorough,” and said he’d work to craft legislation.
Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney has called for a full ban on vaping. A message was left with his office on Murphy’s proposals.
Persichilli said among the things the state can do without legislation would be increasing the number of inspectors who go into vape shops to ensure that laws are being followed. She said the number would go up from eight inspectors currently to 20.
Just this week, Evesham police announced charges against a convenience store clerk who they say sold a vaping cartridge to a girl during a surveillance operation. Investigators said the surveillance was launched after the police department received an anonymous tip employee at the store had been selling tobacco products to persons underage.
In New Jersey, there are 32 reports under investigation and 14 confirmed or probable cases of illness tied to vaping, according to the health commissioner. The median age of those affected is 20, with ages going from 15 to 51.
Officials from Virtua Health have indicated the health system has had a few cases of lung injuries between the ages of 15 and 30, including one serious case involving a patient who developed pneumonia and had to be placed on life support.
Like the CDC, the state health department has urged people to avoid using e-cigarettes or related products, including those purchased off the street, until the investigation is completed.
Any legislation would likely wait until after next month’s election as assembly committees aren’t expected to meet again until after the November election.
The state Senate’s Health Committee already advanced two vaping-related measures in September. One would prohibit the sale of vaping and tobacco products in New Jersey pharmacies. The second seeks to ban the use of coupons, rebates or price promotions for tobacco and vaping products.