A store in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, has been issued a cease and desist order by local health officials for selling vaping products in violation of the governor's first-in-the-nation ban.
The order was delivered to the owner of Lifestyle Vape on Tuesday, police said. The business could also face fines and other disciplinary action from the town.
The cease and desist was issued after complaints from residents that the store continued to sell vaping products throughout October in defiance of the ban, according to East Bridgewater police. Some of the complaints mentioned the alleged sale of products to minors.
While conducting surveillance outside the store on Tuesday, a police detective saw a man walk out of the store and place an item into one of his pockets. The man then left the parking lot in his vehicle. About 20 minutes later, the same person was pulled over for failing to stop at a stop sign in what police said was an unrelated incident.
After hearing the man had been pulled over, the detective who was conducting surveillance at Lifestyle Vape arrived at the scene and spoke to the driver. He was able to determine that the man had purchased a vaping product from the store and seized it as evidence.
Gov. Charlie Baker declared a pubic health emergency on Sept. 24 in relation to the nationwide outbreak of vaping-related lung injuries, which has resulted in 61 cases from Massachusetts being referred to the Centers for Disease Control for review. Two deaths have been reported in the Bay State, both of which have been attributed to the use of nicotine vaping products.
Businesses seeking to overturn the ban argued that the governor overstepped his executive authority and violated the state constitution's separation of powers, causing irreparable harm to vape shop owners who were put at risk of going out of business.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not yet identified the cause of the lung injuries or the ingredients that may be to blame, but the agency did say last week that THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, has been present in most samples tested and most patients affected have reported vaping THC.
Earlier this week, the Department of Public Health filed an emergency regulation with the secretary of state's office to comply with a Superior Court judge's ruling while keeping the first-in-the-nation ban on vaping products from lifting.
Superior Court Judge Douglas Wilkins had ruled last week that the governor pursue an emergency regulation or allow sales of nicotine vaping products to resume next week. He said the Baker administration had likely exceeded its executive authority by using the declaration of a public health emergency to issue a four-month ban on the sale of all vaping products.
The court order applied only to nicotine vaping products. The sale of marijuana vaporizers continue to be banned while legal challenges move through the courts.
Unlike the ban Baker tried to issue under his emergency powers, using the regulatory process will result in Baker's ban being shortened to three months. His administration will also have to hold a pubic hearing before Dec. 24, and draft a small business impact statement.