By Lowell Sun Editorial Board | December 27, 2019
Though Massachusetts became the first state in the country last month to ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and e-liquids, it hasn’t stopped unscrupulous retailers from trying to circumvent that ban.
State regulators have filed suit against eight online companies who they claim have continued to sell vape juice to Bay State residents, including minors.
The complaint filed by Attorney General Maura Healey’s office in Suffolk County Superior Court accuses out-of-state retailers of using the internet to skirt the new state law, passed in large part to shield minors from these potentially addictive, harmful products.
The attorney general is seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the illegal sale of these products while litigation is ongoing. A hearing is scheduled for Jan. 7. Healey is also seeking civil penalties.
“These companies are in flagrant violation of our new state law that was put in place to protect young people from the serious harms caused by vaping,” Healey said. “Our state has been a leader in fighting this public-health crisis, and we will continue to go after companies that ignore our laws and put young people at risk.”
And it’s obvious these rogue retailers couldn’t care less about the teen-vaping epidemic in this country. In fact, they appear to be especially targeting this vulnerable population. More than 50% of Massachusetts high school students have admitted to vaping, according to data from the 2019 Massachusetts Youth Health Survey, with more than 30% saying they had vaped in the past month.
As evidence of their predatory motives, Healey disclosed some of the tobacco flavors being pushed online, including “Unicorn Frappe,” “Gingerbread Dude,” “Rainbow Nuggets,” “Bubble Gum,” “Cake,” “Maui Mango” and “Sour Gummy.”
Those certainly aren’t product names meant to attract adult vapers.
Healey also said the companies violated the law in the delivery of these tobacco products by not requiring the signature of a person of legal age. State regulations instituted in 2015 require sellers to ensure shipments of these products are received by a person 21 years or older.
Healey’s right to come down hard on these e-commerce outlaws. The grim statistics reinforce her enforcement policies.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Dec. 12 that the number of people who have died from vaping-related illness has increased to 54, while vaping-related illness has been reported in every U.S. state and two U.S. territories.
A total of 2,506 people across all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, have been hospitalized for these serious lung ailments. The CDC is also investigating other deaths, in addition to the 54 confirmed to be related to e-cigarette or vaping product-use.
These numbers also show that teens aren’t immune to vaping’s deleterious effects. Those reporting ailments range in age from 13 to 77, with a median age of 24, the CDC announced earlier this month. The deceased individuals ranged in age from 17 to 75, with a median age of 52.
While the CDC has linked some of these vaping deaths/illnesses to vitamin E acetate, an oily substance sometimes added to cannabis vaping oils to stretch their THC content, other unknown variables also may be contributing factors.
That’s why the state ban’s in place and why it must be vigorously enforced.
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