State health department bans flavored vaping products; Missoula County set to enforce

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services on Friday announced plans to begin enforcing an emergency rule restricting the sale of flavored products used in e-cigarettes.

Agency director Sheila Hogan said enforcement of the temporary rule goes into effect next Wednesday, Dec. 18.

The temporary restrictions include the sale of all flavored products, including nicotine, THC and CBD used in e-cigarettes purchased online and in stores. The rules won’t require retailers to destroy their existing inventory.

“Public health experts in Montana and throughout the country continue to be alarmed by the epidemic proportions of youth addiction to flavors, as well as the short- and long-term injuries from e-cigarette use,” said Hogan.

Since the emergency rules were first announced, the state agency has confirmed five additional cases of lung injury caused by the use of e-cigarettes or vaping products, and other cases are under investigation.

“An alarming number of young Montanans are getting addicted,” Hogan said. “People are still getting sick. Pediatricians and public health officials agree that this crisis cannot continue unaddressed.”

In October, the Missoula City-County Health Department said it was ready to enforce the ban if it went into effect. The department has spent the last few months readying for such a ban.

While complaints about online sales will be handled by the state, Ellen Leahy with the local health department said it will conduct spot checks on the 189 tobacco retailers across Missoula County to ensure they’re in compliance with the rules.

“Some of that depends on how much we get in complaints,” said Leahy. “These spot checks aren’t meant to be stings. They’re meant for us to figure out if we have widespread compliance with the rule, or what steps we need to take to get the flavored vaping products off the shelves.”

Nearly 60% of Montana high school students and 30% of middle school students have tried vaping, according to the state health department. In 2019, almost one in 10 Montana high school students vaped daily. That represented a 23% increase from 2017.