© 2024 KALW 91.7 FM Bay Area
KALW Public Media / 91.7 FM Bay Area
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker Announces Ban On All Vaping Products


A maker of popular vaping products says its CEO is stepping down. The company is Juul. The CEO is - or was - Kevin Burns. The company says it will also cease all television, print and digital advertising and pull back on lobbying efforts. This comes as the vaping industry is under pressure. More than 500 people nationwide have contracted vaping-related illnesses, and at least nine people have died. Numerous states are looking for ways to tighten the rules on electronic cigarettes; among them - Massachusetts, which took the most extreme step yet. The governor has ordered an immediate four-month ban on the sale of all vaping products in the state. Here’s Gabrielle Emanuel of member station WGBH in Boston.

GABRIELLE EMANUEL, BYLINE: Yesterday seemed like any other day to Jonathan Lau. He went to The Vape Shop in Boston, which he's owned for the last five years. But in the early afternoon, everything changed.

JONATHAN LAU: All started at 2 p.m. with the Governor Baker making an announcement.


CHARLIE BAKER: Today, I'm officially declaring a public health emergency in the Commonwealth.

EMANUEL: Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker declared a sweeping ban on selling vaping products - doesn't matter if it's nicotine or marijuana, if it's flavored or unflavored, or if it's sold in stores or...


BAKER: Online and through any other means, effective immediately.

EMANUEL: Baker says this is because people have been getting sick with severe lung disease after using e-cigarettes. Baffled doctors are still trying to pinpoint the exact cause. But as Baker explained, they know it's linked to vaping.


BAKER: We as a Commonwealth need to pause sales in order for our medical experts to collect more information about what is driving these life-threatening, vaping-related illnesses.

LAU: So for me, I was very appalled to hear his decision.

EMANUEL: Jonathan Lau was at his vape shop watching online. His immediate thought was that he'll have to close his store.

LAU: I wouldn't be able to go four months without a sale. My three employees would have to file for unemployment, and I would have to file for bankruptcy.

EMANUEL: But what really bugs Lau is that his legal products are being banned when he says the real health risk comes from counterfeit products.

LAU: Black market marijuana cartridges that you get from drug dealers, not stuff that you get from a retail shop.

EMANUEL: As soon as the ban was announced, Lau's shop got busy with customers trying to stock up.

LAU: So what can I get for you today?

UNIDENTIFIED CUSTOMER: Could I get the melon - the all melon naked?

EMANUEL: Katie Fisher, a dog walker, was one of them.

KATIE FISHER: I smoked for - God, maybe, like, 30 years? Like, a really heavy smoker, and I've been - I quit about eight months ago. So it's pretty miraculous.

EMANUEL: Customers huddled and started strategizing. One proposed driving to New Hampshire. Another said he'd order vaping products from Europe. But talk of the black market worries Fisher.

FISHER: I would rather go back to smoke than do that.

THOMAS YLIOJA: We absolutely don't want people going back to smoking cigarettes.

EMANUEL: Thomas Ylioja is the clinical director for National Jewish Health, which runs hotlines in 16 states to help people quit smoking. He says the ban is an important step, but he worries about those addicted to nicotine in e-cigarettes.

YLIOJA: Nicotine withdrawal is not pleasant. So they may feel more irritable, easier to anger, easier to get upset.

EMANUEL: But Michael Seilback of the American Lung Association says the ban is the right way to go.

MICHAEL SEILBACK: The fact is, regulation time and time again has shown to save lives.

EMANUEL: What concerns Seilback is the piecemeal approach to e-cigarette oversight.

SEILBACK: States like Massachusetts, New York and Michigan have said if the federal government is not going to act, we're going to step up.

EMANUEL: The Trump administration has discussed a nationwide ban on most flavored e-cigarettes, but the details have not been finalized. For NPR News, I'm Gabrielle Emanuel in Boston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Gabrielle Emanuel
[Copyright 2024 NPR]