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March 27, 2020

Rhode Island Becomes the 3rd State to Ban Vape Flavors

Rhode Island became the third U.S. state to ban sales of flavored vaping products this week, after Governor Gina Raimondo used the Department of Health to bypass the state legislature and create a permanent rule. The new rule takes effect immediately, and prohibits the sale of any vapor product (including bottled e-liquid) in a flavor other than tobacco.

Raimondo had imposed a temporary “emergency” flavor ban last September. That ban, which was due to expire April 1, was passed during the panic over lung injuries caused by adulterated THC oil cartridges sold on the black market. The injuries were not caused by flavored nicotine vaping products.

“These products are deliberately, specifically targeted to children, being used by children, and hurting children,” Raimondo told TV station WPRI last year.

A flavor ban is also part of a state House bill introduced in January as part of the governor’s budget request. That legislation, H7171, which is still active in the legislature, also includes an 80 percent wholesale tax on e-liquid and a 35 mg/mL cap on nicotine content in all vaping products. It’s unclear whether the flavor ban component will be removed from the bill, or whether the law, if passed, supersedes the Department of Health rule.

The new rule includes a licensing scheme for vape shops, and requires newly licensed businesses to “self-certify…that none of the electronic nicotine-delivery system products they sell, or offer for sale, or possess with intent to sell or offer for sale to consumers in Rhode Island are flavored electronic nicotine-delivery system products.”

Rhode Island-based pharmacy chain CVS Health, which also owns Aetna Insurance, applauded Raimondo’s temporary ban last fall. CVS is a major funder of anti-vaping and tobacco control programs.

“This and similar actions across the country get us one step closer to the first tobacco-free generation,” the company said in a statement.

Last November, Massachusetts became the first state to permanently ban vaping flavors through the normal legislative process. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker had imposed a temporary emergency ban of all vaping products in September. The New Jersey legislature became the second to pass a permanent flavor ban in January.

Florida lawmakers passed a flavor ban two weeks ago. The bill is currently being considered by Gov. Ron DeSantis, and vaping advocates have engaged in a campaign to convince the conservative Republican to veto the flavor ban.

Smokers created vaping without any help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and vapers have the right to keep innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I recently joined the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy

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