New Jersey’s Immediate Response

Digital Illustration by Alana Burman

New Jersey legislators have put forth a call to ban flavored e-cigarettes, and potentially all vape products, due to a perceived link with the recent nation-wide spate of respiratory illnesses.[1] Of particular concern is the potentially irreversible nature of these illnesses and the high percentage of young people impacted. New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney, a supporter of medical and recreational cannabis, took one of the most extreme stances among New Jersey leadership when he called for a complete ban on e-cigarette and vape products due to the newly perceived health risks; though he later downgraded his calls to one demanding more legislation.[2]

Despite evidence from research institutes, like Harvard, that vapes and e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional tobacco and smoking[3][4], calls have continued to resonate throughout the state legislature to ban e-cigarette and vaping products from the market.[5] Regardless, New Jersey leadership remains critical of e-cigarette and vape products for sale, until further studies have been performed.[6] This has been due in part to the wide-spread impact of lung illnesses leading to deaths in several states, such as California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota and Oregon.[7] These deaths have been directly tied and attributed to the vaping and e-cigarette intake of patients and the use of black-market products for these devices.[8]

In order to address the outcry and concern over the nationwide illnesses, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order 84 on September 12, 2019 creating a vape and e-cigarette task force to investigate and find the cause of lung damage risk.[9] As of publishing, the task force has already convened its first meeting, according to a Facebook post by the New Jersey Department of Health, and has been tasked with formulating a comprehensive strategy to “protect New Jersey residents from the hazards of electronic cigarettes”.[10] The task force is required to submit recommendations after 21 days.

The Governor has also urged New Jersey residents to stop using e-cigarettes and vapor products.[11] Since then, potential evidence has been reported linking the outbreak to tainted cartridges from Wisconsin, and possibly tainted CBD oils, as a result of a lack of legalization, regulation, and oversight.[12] Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said that he has demanded information from 15 e-cigarette companies to make sure they are in compliance with state law, including marketing.[13]

However, scientific research has uncovered that e‐cigarettes contain additives and chemicals that are not inert and are likely to have some negative health effects on their own.[14] One particular cause for concern is that “flavored e-cigarettes … often contain a chemical compound called diacetyl, which is associated with a rare lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans that causes permanent damage to the bronchioles (the tiniest airways in the lungs)”.[15] Studies have also noted the need for more research to better understand which patients might be most likely to benefit from e‐cigarette use to support complete cessation or as delivery of medication, who should avoid using them, and what the overall population health benefits might ultimately be.[16] Even with the Center for Disease Control’s recent statements against vaping and e-cigarettes as a preventative measure against the spread of the mysterious lung disease, they acknowledge the need for more research to better understand potential risks and long term side effects.[17]

It is not just New Jersey that is dealing with this issue, either. The Governor of Michigan has already announced a renewable 6 month ban on the sale of flavored E-liquid and vaping products, including traditional tobacco flavors like mint and menthol, while other states grapple with how to deal with the problem.[18] While New Jersey looks to possibly follow in these footsteps with a similar ban.[19] Governor Cuomo of New York has also instituted a similar ban on flavored e-cigarettes.[20] This all comes following President Donald Trump’s promise to ban flavored e-liquid products nationwide.[21]






















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