Bullock calls for emergency rules to ban sale of flavored e-cigarettes

Gov. Steve Bullock has directed the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services to implement emergency administrative rules to temporarily prohibit the sale of flavored e-cigarettes.

“Young Montanans are using e-cigarettes at an alarming rate, while officials investigate the possible causes of a national outbreak of e-cigarette-related injury and death, leaving us at a crossroads,” Bullock said in a press conference today. “Today, I choose action.”

The emergency rules will be filed by DPHHS on Oct. 8 and will be effective on Oct. 22, according to a release from Bullock’s office.

The emergency rules will be in effect for 120 days, the maximum time allowed by law. The ban includes the sale of all flavored e-cigarette products, including flavored nicotine, THC, and CBD vaping products, in-store and online. The ban does not require retailers to destroy their existing inventory, according to the release.

“The ban on flavored e-cigarettes, which are widely marketed to and used by young people, will seek to curb e-cigarette use while authorities investigate what product or chemical is causing critical illness across the country and develop an evidence-based response,” according to the release.

Two cases were recently confirmed in Montana, including an individual in their 20s from Gallatin County and an individual in their 30s from Yellowstone County, according to Bullock’s office.

Nationwide, 1,080 confirmed and probable cases and 21 deaths linked to e-cigarette use have been identified in 48 states and one U.S. territory. More than half the cases involve patients under 25 years of age, according to the release.

Six other states have taken similar action including Washington, Oregon, Michigan, Rhode Island, New York and Massachusetts.

Utah has passed emergency rules limiting where e-cigarettes can be sold and California’s governor issued an executive order to increase public awareness and develop warning labels. The Trump administration said last month it would ban the sale of most flavored e-cigarettes, but has not released specifics.

E-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among all youth. The 2019 Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed 30 percent of Montana high school students currently use e-cigarettes and more than 58 percent have tried them.

In Montana, 28 percent of middle school students report having tried e-cigarettes, and 16% report currently using them. Approximately 43,000 Montana youth between ages 12 and 18 have tried vaping products and 22,000 Montana youth are currently using vaping products. Between 2017 and 2019, the percentage of Montana high school students using these products frequently (on 20 or more of the past 30 days) has increased by 243 percent and daily use has increased by 263 percent, according to Bullock’s release.

“The federal government banned all flavors for conventional cigarettes in 2009, with the exception of menthol. Since then, current use of cigarettes among U.S. youth has decreased significantly. However, this ban did not include e-cigarettes which had recently entered the market.” DPHHS State Medical Officer Dr. Greg Holzman said during the press conference. “It is evident that flavored e-cigarettes have helped fuel this current epidemic.”

A recent national study concluded that flavored tobacco products might attract young users and serve as starter products to regular tobacco use. A recent report by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration states that 96 percent of 12 to 17-year-olds who initiated e-cigarette use started with a flavored product, and 70 percent report the flavors as the reason they use e-cigarettes, according to the release.

The CDC and DPHHS are advising all Montanans not to use any type of vaping product.