The Wellesley Health Department on Wednesday said it hand-delivered letters to eleven local retail outlets to ensure these business are complying with an emergency order from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts banning the sale and public display of all vaping products sold in stores, online and by any other means.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) announced the ban on Sept. 24, after Gov. Charlie Baker declared a public health emergency due to severe lung disease associated using e-cigarettes and vaping products and the epidemic of e-cigarette use among youths. More info at Mass.gov
The Health Department letter was delivered to the eleven Wellesley retailers who sell vaping products and accessories and must be posted in these stores at front and back entrances. You can see the Health Department letter here.
The products prohibited from sale and display are:
- All non-flavored and flavored vaping products, including mint and menthol; and products used to vape tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and any other cannabinoid
- Vape products are any product intended for human consumption by inhalation, regardless of nicotine content, whether for one-time use or reusable, that relies on vaporization of aerosolization, including but not limited to e-cigarettes, e-cigars, e-pipes, vape pens, hookah pens, and other similar devices that rely on vaporization or aerosolization. This includes any component, part or accessory of these products or devices defined, even if sold separately.
The emergency order is effective immediately and lasts for four months, but may be extended. It is enforced by the Health Department. Officials will follow up today’s letter and visit with a repeat visit in 24 hours to ensure that Wellesley businesses are complying with the order. Retailers who fail to comply may be fined, have their vape products seized and face other penalties.
“Diligent work with all of our retailers is crucial to preventing further illnesses and death from vaping products. Information from the State shows that this is a public health crisis affecting both adults and youth that is rapidly escalating. Our job is to respond quickly and protect all residents,” said Lenny Izzo, Health Department Director.
Vaping consists of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol (often called vapor) produced by an e-cigarette or similar battery-powered device. The U.S. surgeon general has called teen e-cigarette use an epidemic. According to MDPH reports, in Massachusetts, 41% of all youth in 2017 reported trying e-cigarettes and 1 in 5 reported using e-cigarettes regularly.
Vaping at Wellesley High School
Wellesley High School Principal Jamie Chisum, on the front lines of the teens and vaping issue, is a fan of the ban.
“We definitely have vaping at the high school,” Chisum says. “We smell it as much as we see it, simply because vaping is really easy for kids to disguise.”
The school tries to get ahead of the issue by educating kids about the dangers. “Vaping is discussed in health class during 10th grade. It is often discussed as part of the good decisions work done in guidance seminar as well,” he says.
When education about the dangers doesn’t work and a student is caught vaping, a first-step punishment is to be assigned a Saturday school detention. During that time students must write a short research paper about the dangers and impacts of vaping for the Assistant Principal of their house. Although it’s mostly juniors and seniors who are found vaping, Chisum says they do have students in all grades who are doing it.
Why kids vape varies from student to student, but the answer falls into a few general categories. “It’s natural for adolescents to be rebellious and try out risky behaviors, so that would be part of the equation for at least some of the kids. Other kids tell us they just like it or they like how it makes them feel. Some say it relaxes them. Many don’t believe there are health risks. Some use it as a way of using Marijuana or at least the THC,” Chisum says.
Between marketing efforts aimed directly at teens, particularly with popular flavors such as strawberry, cola, cherry, and even cereal and buttered popcorn, and the misconception that vaping is neither addictive or dangerous, young people are under siege by companies like Juul who want to reel them in as loyal (and addicted) customers from an early age.
On the heels of multiple local bans on vaping and the Trump administration’s likely ban of flavored vapor products, Juul has agreed to stop advertising in the United States. Juul’s CEO Kevin Burns has stepped down.
According to the Center for Disease Control, there have been nine vaping-related deaths in the US, and 530 people have come down with vaping-related illnesses.
Get Help Quitting
Both MDPH officials and the Health Department are working on public education campaigns to reduce e-cigarette use in both adults and youth and address the withdrawal symptoms associated with the prohibition of vaping products.
- MDPH Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program 617-624-5900
- MDPH quit line 1-800-QUITNOW or makesmokinghistory.org
- Resources for Youth and Parents
Additional information on the State ban of vaping products is available on the Wellesley Health Department website.