Opponents of the Baker administration's temporary ban on all vaping products packed a room at the Department of Public Health in Boston Friday to slam the emergency regulation in the only public hearing scheduled on its impact.
Speakers ranged from a Boston University researcher to dozens of vape shop owners and individual vape users, and most criticized the temporary ban set to expire Dec. 24 as a draconian step that will harm businesses or boost an illicit market.
Some argued that vaping tobacco is the most effective method for people to quit using combustible cigarettes.
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"If there's going to be nicotine still sold in cigarettes, I should be allowed to smoke nicotine in a vape especially if it's a healthier alternative," vape user Kyle Oliva told Department of Public Health officials at the hearing.
Gov. Charlie Baker ordered the ban in September amid a national outbreak of vaping-related lung illnesses, and the governor is hoping for more definitive information about the cause of those illnesses, and deaths.
Proponents of vaping say the ban is dangerous — with people possibly returning to cigarettes. They also say 29 vaping deaths have now been tied to Vitamin E laced THC cartridges, not flavored nicotine ones.
"The CDC has concluded definitively that these illnesses are caused by contaminated THC vaping cartridges," Dr. Michael Siegel of the Boston University School of Public Health said.
Both the Massachusetts House and Senate have voted to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes and flavored vapes. The bill now awaits the governor's signature.
But opponent David Sailer said he started vaping to kick a 30-year habit of two packs of cigarettes a day. To him, the ban makes no sense.
"Vaping is safe and it's the only really proven cessation method for smoking," Sailer testified.
Jonathan Lau brought his family to the hearing, saying he may have to declare bankruptcy with his Brighton vape stores now shuttered. Even his 6-year-old son Jayden had a question.
"Why does the government ban vaping but not smoking," Jayden Lau asked.
Chris Lisinski from State House News Service contributed to this report.