On September 24, Governor Charlie Baker declared a public health emergency due to severe lung disease associated with the use of e-cigarettes and vaping products, as well as what the state terms an epidemic of e-cigarette use among youths. Department of Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, M.D., instituted a four-month ban on the sale and display of all e-cigarettes and vaping products in Massachusetts, including all flavored and non-flavored vaping products, whether the products contain nicotine or marijuana.
In issuing the order, Bharel conceded that the abrupt ban would be difficult for those with behavioral health or substance use disorder issues, and those trying to quit smoking through the use of vaping. She wrote to the provider community, “Your patients—both youth and adults—will need your help adjusting to this change … People who vape with the goal of reducing the amount of cigarettes they smoke should be steered toward FDA-approved options for nicotine replacement therapy.” The Board of Registration of Pharmacy issued an order expanding access to FDA-approved, over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy products, including gum, lozenges and patches, through a statewide standing order that facilitates insurance coverage for the products.
MHA commended the administration for the vaping ban, saying it is necessary “until we can fully understand the causes of the reported illnesses and deaths associated with vaping. Massachusetts hospitals are committed to doing their part to resolve the issue – not only for our state but for the nation. Because of the serious health consequences posed by these products – especially for youth – MHA also has advocated for swift passage of HB1902/SB1279, which would permanently ban all flavored tobacco, including e-cigarettes and vaping products.” Last Thursday, the legislature’s Public Health Committee gave the bills a favorable report.