Approximately six years ago, members of my staff had questions and concerns about the new e-cigarette or vaping industry, so they visited a small vape shop in Severna Park. They talked to the owner about how one “vapes,” the devices that are available for vaping, and the cartridges that are available for purchase for the devices. They were told that vaping was such an excellent step down from cigarettes and nicotine addiction. Concerns were raised about the product not having any federal approval, but the shop owner didn’t feel their product needed federal approval. That was then, before the massive growth in the vaping market, the development of the disposable vaping devices, and severe illness and deaths attributed to vaping.
Today, more than 8,400 retailers in Maryland are licensed to sell tobacco products, including products used for vaping. It has become a known fact that vaping products are highly addictive and contain nicotine salts, which make the flavors more palatable. Unfortunately, the targeted audience has become teenagers and young adults; products are specially flavored to appeal to them. There are more than 15,500 flavors including fruit, candy and dessert flavors.
As the industry has developed, so has the marketing of disposable vaping devises. JUUL is one manufacturer of these devises. These disposable devises are found wherever tobacco products are sold. This has made their purchase incredibly easy for minors at local convenience stores. It’s common knowledge that students will vape at school, in the lunchroom, in classrooms, and during instruction time. Bathrooms are even called “vaping lounges.” The disposable vaping devise is small and easily hidden, and there is no smoke, but a vapor so they are not easily detected. I did support the successful effort to raise the sale of these products to people over the age of 21 years old.
In January, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) acted on the unregulated marketing of vaping products and placed a partial federal ban on all flavored nicotine vaping products that use a cartridge system. Menthol and tobacco flavor cartridges were not included in this ban. However, the federal government did not ban disposable devices.
On February 6, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot announced that he would use his authority as the state’s chief tobacco regulator to immediately ban the sale of disposable flavored e-cigarette devices in Maryland. This closes the loophole created by the FDA that did not address the disposable devices. Agents from the comptroller’s Field Enforcement Division, along with local health departments, will inspect retailers across the state to make sure the product is no longer for sale and is off the retail shelves. In mid-February, the comptroller’s vaping task force came up with several recommendations pertaining to vaping rules and regulations. They covered everything from banning online sales to permitting vape shop vendors to sell only to patrons over 21 years of age. They also recommended that retailers have ID scanning technology to make sure the person was actually 21 years old or older. Tougher punishments would be established for “straw buyers.” These are adults that go in and buy the product with intent to sell or give to a minor.
There are currently several pieces of legislation in the Maryland state legislature. One will totally ban all flavored tobacco and nicotine vaping products. Public safety representatives are concerned that this would create a huge black market supplied by out-of-state products. If this bill becomes law, any action done by the comptroller’s office is totally complementary to legislation.
I have been following vaping for many years now, and I am pleased with the changes made at the federal level, and by Comptroller Franchot. It’s a product that puts our children at risk for serious lung illness as well as an addiction to nicotine. If you have any comments on this issue, or issues that you need to bring to my attention, you may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call my office at 410-841-3568.