SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Health won’t be enforcing all aspects of its new administrative rule cracking down on e-cigarette sales, the department announced Friday.
The emergency rule, introduced in early October, would have only allowed Utah retailers licensed as specialty tobacco businesses to sell flavored e-cigarette products. But the department said it reached an agreement Friday to accept a preliminary injunction to the rule handed down in court this week — meaning that part of it won’t be enforced.
The rule still requires all tobacco retailers to post signs warning customers about the potential dangers of vaping THC products.
More than 100 cases of vaping-related lung disease had been reported in Utah as of Monday, according to state data, with most of the 109 cases occurring since July. Nearly seven in 10 Utah patients with the mysterious illness have been hospitalized. While the exact cause of the lung injuries still aren’t known, 89% of those affected reported vaping THC cartridges, while 60% said they’d vaped nicotine.
The emergency rule, announced Oct. 2, was “originally intended to be one of public health’s tools for addressing this serious outbreak,” said Ryan Bartlett, media coordinator for the department’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Program, in a statement.
A group of licensed general tobacco retailers in Utah filed a lawsuit against the health department last week, arguing, among other points, that there was no evidence linking the lung disease with flavored vape products specifically and that the rule denied retailers due process.
On Monday, a judge in the 3rd District Court issued a temporary restraining order against the rule, prohibiting the department from enforcing the part of its rule banning licensed general tobacco retailers from selling flavored e-cigarette products. The temporary order would have put that part of the rule on hold until Nov. 22.
But the department has agreed with the judge’s decision and will not enforce the restriction on flavored vape sales for the entire 120-day timeframe that the rule will be in effect, department spokesman Braden Ainsworth said Friday.
“We’re disappointed we won’t be able to enforce the flavored nicotine elements of the emergency rule, but we will continue to use all other tools at our disposal to help put a stop to this outbreak,” Bartlett said.