State Rep. proposes Maine ban vaping and e-cigarettes

Rep. Janice Cooper (D – Yarmouth) left, wants to ban the sale of vaping devices and e-cigarettes in Maine. Photo credit:

AUGUSTA – Rep. Janice Cooper, a Democrat from Yarmouth, is proposing a ban on the sale of all vaping devices and other similar electronic devices. Rep. Cooper’s request is listed as L.R. 2763 “An Act To Prohibit the Sale of Vaping Devices and Similar Electronic Smoking Devices” in a list of requested bills on the website of the Maine Revisor of Statutes.

If approved as an “emergency measure” by the Maine Legislature’s Executive Council, the bill would be considered during the 2020 Legislative Session.

The issue is certain to spark controversy and strong emotions on both sides.

Many people who vape say that they could not have quit smoking cigarettes without the alternative, which simulates smoking using an aerosol vapor and a battery powered electronic device, but without the carcinogens and contaminants of cigarettes.

The United States CDC says the smoking alternative has “the potential to benefit adult smokers who are not pregnant if used as a complete substitute for regular cigarettes and other smoked tobacco products.”

Studies such as this one published by Cochrane, a group that promotes high quality health studies and reviews and serves as a benchmark for global evidence-informed decision making, appear to confirm that vaping is a method some smokers could successfully use to quit smoking.

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling, the Faculty Editor of Harvard Health Publishing says vaping should be considered the “lesser of two evils” for current smokers, but warns, “If you do decide to vape, avoid e-cigarettes bought “off the street” and stick with brand name e-cigarette products without modification (such as adding marijuana or other drugs).”

At the same time, numerous authorities warn that young people should not take up vaping as an alternative to smoking and instead, they should simply say no to either of the options.

In recent months, a just over 1,000 cases of a mysterious illness related to vaping have cropped up around the nation, including a handful in Maine. Among those cases there have been eighteen deaths. The cases have been spread across 48 states.

While the CDC and other authorities have yet to definitively nail down the exact cause, some preliminary data from the cases they have studied indicate that most of those afflicted with the illness have a history of using vaping cartridges that contained THC.

THC is the chemical responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effects and is not sold in traditional vaping products.

The CDC’s discovery that the illness was likely linked to vaping THC and not the traditional nicotine fluid prompted the FDA to issue an order telling Americans to completely stop using THC-containing products or any vaping products found on the streets.

All those signs seem to point to the cause of the vaping illness that has captivated the nation being caused by modified cartridges, bootlegged vaping liquid and generally dangerous “off the street” vaping materials.

For what is likely tens of thousands of Mainers who have quit smoking by switching to vaping, that means they face the prospect of their “lesser of two evils” being completely banned, while their greater of two evils continues to be sold in Maine, with the state government collecting a heavy profit via taxes.

For Rep. Cooper, it is unclear what evidence, if anything would move her to a neutral corner on the issue. She has also proposed a bill to fund a study of the use of marijuana in vaping devices along with studying adverse impacts of other types of marijuana. The title of that proposed bill makes no mention of studying the health impact of traditional vaping.

Tens of thousands of Mainers, and dozens of vape shop owners with hundreds of employees will be watching and waiting for the Legislature’s Executive Council to decide if the bill will be considered next year. That vote could come as soon as October 23rd. Six of the ten members of the Executive Council, which is made up of the ten members of legislative leadership, would have to approve the bill to move it forward.

With the current composition of the Maine Legislature showing a clear willingness to take steps to ban products of which they don’t approve, nobody can predict where Cooper’s bill will end up.

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