Montana Gov. Steve Bullock’s order to temporarily halt the sale of flavored e-cigarettes will not go into effect next week after all. On Friday, a state district judge blocked the administration’s move until a hearing later this month.
Montana vape shop retailers last week vowed to challenge Bullock’s order to temporarily halt the sale of flavored e-cigs. They made good on that promise in a Thursday court filing, and State District Judge Jennifer Lint of Hamilton has backed them up, at least for now.
Lint issued a temporary restraining order Friday that blocks the 120-day ban from taking effect on Tuesday. An October 30 hearing will take place to determine whether to continue blocking the ban while she considers the merits of the case.
“I wish I could say I’m feeling great, but I’m not because our businesses are suffering," said Deanna Marshall, co-owner of Freedom Vapes.
Marshall's is one of three vape shops that, along with the Montana Smoke Free Association, moved to block the ban. The Bullock administration says it ordered the temporary ban in response to widespread underage use of vaping products and reports mysterious lung injuries tied to vaping use.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaping-related lung disease has sickened nearly 1,500 people and killed 33 across the country. Montana reported its first vape-related death this week, but Marshall believes that fatality had nothing to do with legal e-cig products.
“There’s been nothing issued about where, when or why this death occurred, and what he was vaping," she said. "I can promise you it was not our products.”
The federal CDC said it has not identified the cause or causes of the lung injuries associated with the national outbreak, and that “no one compound or ingredient has emerged as the cause of these illnesses to date."
But Marshall and her fellow plaintiffs pin the blame for those nationwide illnesses and deaths on THC and black market e-cig products. THC is the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.
“The majority of our sales are of flavored e-liquid," she said. "It wouldn’t make sense to stay in business if you can’t sell what you sell the most.
"The governor issued a ban and a ruling against a legally sold product and legal businesses that are regulated through the state of Montana. With the stroke of a pen he took away our freedom and liberty.”
Bullock’s office released a statement in response to Friday’s events, writing, “We are confident in the work of pediatricians and our public health professionals and stand by them. Emergency rules exist for situations exactly like this. We continue to urge Montanans to take recommendations by public health officials seriously and refrain from using any vaping product.”
Earlier this week Montana Public Radio asked state medical officer Greg Holzman what the state health department’s response would be if Bullock’s ban was challenged.
“Our job in public health is to notify the public of risk to their own health and to help communities live the healthiest possible way they can," he said. "That’s why we’re announcing these cases. That’s why we’re keeping people up to date on what we know and what we don’t know. If there’s a court case or anything else of that sort, we’ll let that go through the court system.”
Earlier this month, a court blocked a ban on flavored vaping products in New York. The Oregonian newspaper reports Oregon vape shop owners won a temporary stay Thursday on their governor’s flavored vape ban. Paperwork opposing a similar ban in Massachusetts was expected to be filed Friday.
Montana vape shop owner Deanna Marshall said she’s sick of what she says is the fear-mongering surrounding the vaping industry. When even President Donald Trump has discussed the possibility of banning flavored e-cigs, Marshall maintains her defiant tone.
"We’ll take it to him, too."