The governor created a task force Thursday evening to gauge how the state government can respond to the growing public health concern surrounding the numerous cases of vaping-related lung disease that is affecting the nation.
Meanwhile, the state’s attorney general is demanding information from 15 vaping companies to see whether they violated state law by marketing their products to children
The moves come in the midst of 450 vaping-related lung illnesses spanning dozens of states. Nationwide, six people have died from complications as a result, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Trump administration is considering a federal ban on flavored vaping products.
In New Jersey, three people have contracted the same illnesses, while approximately 19 cases are under investigation, according to the state Department of Health.
The task force, which Gov. Phil Murphy signed through executive order, will release its findings by Oct. 3 to look at what actions the executive branch and administration can take, such as a full-out ban on the sale of vaping products in the state.
State Health Commissioner Judy Purzichelli will chair the task force.
“Vaping may be big tobacco’s new way to get [youth] addicted to nicotine,” said Purzichelli, who decried the practice of using attractive flavors and smells for vaping products such as “cotton candy, strawberry cheesecake and razzleberry.”
One option on the table could be a full-out ban enacted via executive order, similar to Michigan. Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, said he is planning to put forward a bill phasing in a total ban on vaping sales in the state.
Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Vitale, D-19th District, who chairs the Senate health committee, proposed a watered down version that would ban the increasingly popular flavored vaping.
Murphy, in the meantime, said the residents should put down their e-cigarettes.
Persichilli said there were no confirmed cases from vaping-related illnesses stemming from products sold at the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries, but health officials have nonetheless directed the dispensaries to inform patients about the CDC warnings on vaping products.
“Many people have no idea what chemicals their vape pen is putting into their bodies,” Murphy said at a press conference Thursday afternoon in Trenton.
“At this moment, there is no safe vape,” he added. “The only safe alternative to smoking is not smoking
At the same press conference, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the state is demanding information on sales and marketing practices on 15 vaping businesses that operate in the state, such as JUUL, to see if the businesses violated state law through deceptive, illegal marketing to children and teenagers.
“At a time when we are fighting tooth and nail against a raging opioid epidemic, we simply cannot allow another generation of young people to fall prey to another addiction,” Grewal said Thursday afternoon.
“We’re demanding answers about their sales in New Jersey. We’re demanding answers about how they market product to New Jersey residents,” Grewal said.
“We have the power to hurt them in their pocketbook,” Grewal said.