Due to health reports of teen vaping reaching epidemic levels in the US resulting in a slew of lung injuries and the federal government taking its time to pass regulations for vaping products, states and cities have begun to ban or limit vaping on their own.
Electronic cigarettes arrived in the US in 2007, yet it was not until 2016 that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was given regulatory authority over the vaping industry. During that time, Juul Labs quickly took over the market. In December of 2018, the National Institutes of Health issued a new report confirming the high numbers of teenagers using vaping products in the US. The very next day, the U.S. Surgeon General released new recommendations for local governments to ban indoor vaping and raise taxes on e-cigarette sales as a deterrent for teens.
The next year, a potentially fatal lung condition related to vaping was discovered and later named EVALI, which stands for e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury. As of February of 2020, 2,807 cases of EVALI resulting in hospitalization have been reported to the CDC, along with 68 related deaths. Before 2019, most local and state vaping regulations levels focused on including e-cigarettes in non-smoking area laws. Increasing awareness and concerns over teenage vaping and EVALI has now led some states and cities to specifically ban vaping within their borders.
It was announced in late 2019 that the Trump administration planned to move to ban flavored vaping products on the federal level. In early 2020, a ban went into effect on nearly all pods and cartridges containing flavorings. Only traditional tobacco and menthol flavored pods were still permitted to be sold, with the exception of fluids for e-cigs using tanks.
In July of 2019, a federal judge ordered the FDA to require e-cigarette makers to obtain FDA approval for their products in order to continue to sell them. However, as of late 2019, none of the vaping products sold in the US have been FDA approved and the agency has allowed them to continue to be sold on the market. All manufacturers are expected to apply retroactively for FDA approval before May 12, 2020. After the retroactive application is submitted, each company can still sell their devices for a year without FDA approval. Even as the deadline nears, only one manufacturer has actually submitted an application.
In September of 2019, the FDA made accusations against Juul Labs, claiming that the company was illegally marketing its products as being safer to consume than tobacco by running ads urging smokers to “make the switch”. Juul ignored the FDA and continued to profit from the advertisements. During the height of the EVALI scare, Juul was aggressively supporting a ballot initiative to reverse an e-cigarette ban in San Francisco, CA. Suddenly, Juul’s CEO resigned. When a new leader emerged, the company immediately pulled all Juul ads. A few months later, JUUL stopped selling sweetly flavored pods both in stores and online.
State, county, and city governments are usually able to move faster than federal regulations. However, states that have attempted to ban vaping have faced significant pushback. By late 2019, nine states had proposed vaping bans. Many were enacted and then reversed when challenged in court by local companies that sell vaping products.
Michigan’s governor enacted an emergency six-month ban on the sale of flavored vaping products, beginning September 18, 2019. While the state’s vaping businesses tried to stop the ban, they only managed to delay it for a few weeks before the judge ruled against them. However, in mid-October, another state court ruled in favor of the vaping businesses and blocked the ban.
New York enacted a ban on all flavored vaping products in September of 2019, with the exception of menthols flavors. A state appeals court ended up blocking the ban the day before it was set to take effect.
Ohio has attempted to outlaw all flavored vape products. A bill was introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives in September of 2019.
Rhode Island’s governor signed an executive order banning all flavored vape products for 120 days beginning on October 4, 2019. Just 20 days later, the Vapor Technology Association and a group of local vape stores publicly announced that they would go to court to challenge the ban.
Washington State passed an emergency ban on flavored vape products on October 9, 2019. The Vapor Technology Association and a group of local vape stores filed a lawsuit to prevent the ban from being enforced.
Oregon’s governor announced a six-month ban on all flavored and cannabis vape products to begin on October 19, 2019. The Court of Appeals partially blocked the ban two days before it was going to take effect due to a legal challenge filed by The Vapor Technology Association. The court ruled that vape shops could continue to sell nicotine based vape products but could no longer sell marijuana vaping products.
Montana’s ban was supposed to begin on October 22, 2019, but a state court blocked its enforcement. Three local vape shops and the Vapor Technology Association had fought the ban in court.
Utah enacted emergency limitations on the sale of flavored nicotine products in October of 2019. The measure limited flavored vape products to being sold only in regulated specialty tobacco shops. The shops are also now required to post notices about the health risks of vaping with unregulated vaping products containing THC.
Over 250 towns and cities have banned or restricted the sale of flavored vaping tobacco products in their communities, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Vaping fluids are legally considered tobacco products but not all e-cigarettes are affected by the bans. Cities and even entire counties in California have banned vaping products. Over 55 California jurisdictions have enacted bans or are considering them.
San Francisco was the first major US city to ban the sale of all e-cigarettes, rather than only flavored vaping liquids. The city happens to be the home of Juul Labs’ headquarters. The company invested roughly $11 million on an attempt to overturn the ban. When the EVALI epidemic arrived shortly after, Juul’s public image suffered. The company found a new CEO, pulled all advertising, and withdrew their opposition of the ban. The ban was cleared in November, 2019 to take effect January, 2020. The sale or manufacturing of any vaping product is no longer allowed within the city.
Los Angeles County passed a ban on all flavored tobacco products beginning in October of 2019. This ban affected menthol flavored cigarettes, flavored chewing tobacco, and all types of flavored vaping products sold in stores. However, online sales were still permitted. The city of Los Angeles is also considering a ban of all vaping devices that are not FDA approved.
In 2019, San Diego County banned the sale of all vaping devices in unincorporated areas for a period of one year and also passed a permanent ban on flavored nicotine products.
Over 2,000 colleges had prohibited vaping devices on their campuses by October of 2019. Three states have banned e-cigarettes from all public school properties. Several states have also raised the minimum age a person must be to buy vape products. When Juul products were first released, it became difficult to enforce smoking rules on school campuses because of the way that the vaping pens resembled a flash drive. One Pennsylvania school district has even banned all flash drives because their students were using school computers to charge their Juul e-cigarettes, disguised as flash drives.