SALT LAKE CITY — Regulators have enacted an emergency rule that will allow flavored e-cigarette products to be sold only at certain stores.
The rule also will require stores that sell e-cigarette products to post notices about the dangers of vaping unregulated THC products, according to a news release from the Utah Department of Health.
“Now that they’re actually pushing that narrative, and letting people know, ‘Hey, this is what’s making people sick,’ it makes me truly relieved,” said Juan Bravo, president of the Utah Vapor Business Association. “Because during that time a lot of people were stopping using vapor products and e-cigarettes, which according to the Royal College of Physicians are at least 95% safer than combustible tobacco.”
Only stores categorized as “retail tobacco specialty businesses” will be able to sell flavored e-cigarette and vaping products, according to the release. Those stores are characterized as age-restricted stores that primarily sell tobacco and e-cigarette products, the release states.
All other stores that sell tobacco products, known as “general tobacco retailers,” will no longer be allowed to sell flavored e-cigarette juices, according to the release.
Businesses will have until Saturday to comply with the rule, and it will stay in effect for 120 days, the release said. Health department officials will be working to put a permanent rule in place in the meantime.
“Moving these products to age-restricted specialty shops will restrict young people’s access to them and can reduce the number of users who eventually move on to vaping THC,” UDOH Executive Director Dr. Joseph Miner said in the release.
Some Utah business owners are saying one part of the new rule, which bans the sale of flavored e-juices without a specialty vapor license, could hurt vape stores and might force some locations without the license to shut down.
“The ruling under its current writing could put a lot of businesses out of business,” Bravo said.
Kevin and Andrea Henrie, co-owners of Rebel Goat Vapors, said they worried they could be in that boat.
“Of our customers, maybe 2% buy tobacco flavor,” Kevin Henrie said. “Adults like candy as well, and a lot of these flavors is what got them off of cigarettes, which we know kills over 400,000 people a year in the United States alone.”
Utah has seen an outbreak of lung illnesses linked to vaping and e-cigarette usage. There have been at least 71 cases of such illnesses in the state as of this week, according to the Department of Health. Of those, 45 people have been hospitalized and 26 spent time in an intensive care unit, according to the department of health.
The vast majority — 94% — of people affected in those cases reported they were vaping THC, according to the health department.
Another 10 cases are under review as possibly vaping-related, the agency said.
More information about the ongoing investigation is available at health.utah.gov/lung-disease-investigation.