On the same day the Trump administration announced it would ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes because of their popularity with – and dangers to – young people, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health took its own step forward on the anti-vaping front.
DPH Commissioner Monica Bharel said her department would mandate cases of vaping-related illnesses be immediately reported to DPH for the next 12 months. Given the news that hundreds of people across the country have developed lung diseases – and at least six have died – possibly from e-cigarette use, this swift action by the DPH is welcome news. State health officials will be the conduit to the national Centers for Disease Control for reports of illnesses in the Bay State. The contrast could not be more stark between the fairly quick action by state and national health officials on the vaping crisis, and the inaction and propaganda that accompanied the spread of traditional cigarettes many decades ago. Back then, tobacco companies ran the show, obfuscating about health risks and the addictive nature of cigarettes. Doctors were enlisted in advertising campaigns to tout the benefits of cigarette smoking, and Madison Avenue prospered by promoting the rugged individualism of the Marlboro Man, and urging smokers to “Take a puff, it’s springtime,” when lighting up a Salem.
Today, the allure of vaping is powerful and the habit of “Juuling” among teenagers – many of whom are oblivious to the addictive nature of the nicotine they’re inhaling – is resonating with young people and boosting the profits of e-cigarette manufacturers. Many states have moved to limit flavored e-cigarette sales in general and especially to minors. Flavor-ban bills filed in the Massachusetts House and Senate are before the Public Health Committee.
State Sen. John Keenan, a Quincy Democrat who filed a flavor ban bill, told State House News Service on Wednesday, “As more and more evidence piles up across the country that these products are harmful for your health, we cannot be careful enough. These products are completely unregulated, and they’re making people sick.” Vaping is a public health crisis. We welcome this action by DPH to monitor illnesses linked to vaping and urge officials to stay on top of products that are becoming the scourge of a generation.