Here’s the Deal with the Montana E-Cigarette Ban

On October 8, 2019, Governor Steve Bullock directed the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services to implement emergency rules that would temporarily ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. This announcement came the same day the second Montana illness related to vaping was confirmed in Yellowstone County. The Montana Governor directed emergency rules be implemented, but is vaping-related illness an actual emergency in Montana? What brought Bullock to make this decision, an effort to boost his presidential campaign polling or a genuine concern for Montana’s young people? Are the health concerns around vaping justified or are we experiencing another health scare utilizing propaganda to create reactionary legislation that subsequently benefits Big Tobacco?

Three Montana vape shops and a trade association representing them filed a lawsuit Thursday, October 17, to overturn the ban. The Plaintiffs, Freedom Vapes, Liberty Smoke, UBlaze Vapor, and the Montana Smokefree Association, requested an injunction on the ban, claiming that it would for 20 Montana businesses to close.

The Montana vape shop owners attribute that the pulmonary illnesses could be the result of the “illicit addition” of THC or marijuana products into legal vaping products and that THC and marijuana are not included as ingredients in any of the products sold by the businesses involved in the lawsuit, according to the plaintiffs. These business owners may be using the Montana cannabis industry as a scapegoat for this issue but is it just illegal THC cartridges getting everyone sick? Let’s start from the beginning.

Smoking and Vaporizing are similar, but not the same. Both use heat and combustion, but the methods that these devices use heat to create smoke and generate that smoke are very different. E-cigarettes, or vaporizers, utilize a heated wire coil or atomizer to combust an oil-chemical mixture; this mixture is usually mostly oil with some volatile organic compounds.  There can also be a host of other chemicals in there including an array of carrier oils used to cut the active compounds, stabilizer chemicals, and preservatives. Cigarettes on the other hand not only contain dry tobacco leaf that has a range of oils and compounds including nicotine, but tobacco companies also add many other chemicals including formaldehyde and arsenic. Both are known major carcinogens. 

There are a lot more differences in vaporizer devices and the liquid or “juice” than those in off-the-shelf cigarettes from large producers like Marlboro or Philip Morris. “These products are commercialised in various forms (or ‘models’) with different design characteristics and generate different physical and chemical characteristics during operation.”

There is also a very large gap between legally sourced vape-cartridges in the regulated e-cigarette and cannabis industry and their illegal counterparts. These illegal cartridges are being formulated with questionably-sourced ingredients and mixed and concocted. Much of the controversy is over the Illegally formulated and sold THC vaporizer cartridges. Many of the fake THC vape cartridges contain a mix of locally formulated products that have not passed testing and are sold illegally or are completely illegally formulated cartridges that could have any substances inside, toxic or not. Legally-produced THC cartridges are heavily regulated and tested in all medical and recreational states. Many of the Illegal vaporizer cartridges have their source in China and were imported as counterfeit products.

With the latest ban on the market harming the vaporizer industry, news about the industry’s largest company, Juul, bringing to market one million out of date and potentially contaminated cartridges further hurts an already vulnerable industry. The former CEO even reportedly said, “Half our customers are drunk and vaping like mo-fos, who the fuck is going to notice the quality of our pods.” This was all denied by the company later but was followed by the quick resignation of Kevin Burns, Juul’s CEO. This was all brought to light after a lawsuit filed by a former employee of Juul against the company for selling these contaminated pods. This just shows the lack of ethics and oversight that was lacking in keeping this Criminal CEO and his renegade company reigned in before this disaster could happen. 

Although widespread bans have swept through the US, there are still real studies that show the toxicology of some of the formulations in the e-cigarette market are safer than their cigarette counterparts. These studies are of specific chemicals used in vaping and their constituent chemicals used in the formulation of the cartridges. One of the chemicals used was Propylene Glycol and was shown to have “very little to no toxicity” and also showed a small to moderate risk of allergic reactions. Also, many legally produced vaporizer Recreational and medical industries have been providing safe and regulated vaporizer cartridges from cannabis using the proper solvent and solventless methods to extract and concentrate the cannabinoids and natural VOC from the flower. Studies also found that “Vaporization of cannabis is a safe and effective mode of delivery of THC.” Yet illegally or unscrupulous produced cartridges are killing children and adults at an alarming rate, it is why it is so important to crack down on the illegal and hostile actors and at the same time bolster the legal and regulated market. There are real health benefits over smoking, but the thing that will kill this industry is lack of regulation and uninformed legislation in safe industry standards.

Montana Vaping Timeline

October 1, 2009

Date businesses were required to adhere to the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act, prohibiting smoking in enclosed public spaces (source)

March 12, 2019

HB 653, revising the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act to include vaping products

April 17, 2019

HB 413, which prohibited vaping on school grounds passed the Senate (source) (bill text)

April 25, 2019

HB 653 Died in Process

May 7, 2019

Governor Bullock signed HB 413 into law

September 30, 2019

First reported illness due to vaping, in Yellowstone County (source)

October 8, 2019

Second reported illness due to vaping, in Gallatin County (source)

October 8, 2019

Governor Bullock directed the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services to implement emergency administrative rules to temporarily prohibit the sale of flavored e-cigarettes (source) (source)

October 16, 2019

Montana’s first death associated with e-cigarette use, or vaping was identified by state and local health officials (source)

October 17, 2019

Three Montana vape shops and their trade association (Freedom Vapes, LLC., Liberty Smoke, Inc., UBlaze Vapor, LLC, and Montana Smokefree Association, Inc.) filed suit Thursday to overturn Gov. Steve Bullock’s emergency ban on flavored e-cigarette products (source) (source)

October 18, 2019

Hamilton Judge, Jennifer Lint, blocked Gov. Steve Bullock’s temporary emergency ban on flavored e-cigarette products. The ban is blocked for 12 days until a hearing on a permanent injunction. (source)

October 22, 2019

Emergency Temporary Ban planned to take effect (source) (source)

October 28, 2019

DPHHS officials announced they identified two additional cases of illness related to vaping. One case involved an individual hospitalized this past summer and then again in October. The second new case involved an individual from Lake County in their 30s. One case reported a history of vaping nicotine and THC and the other THC only. (source)

October 30, 2019

A hearing to discuss the legality of the Emergency Temporary Ban on flavored e-cigarette products was scheduled for this day. District Judge Jennifer Lint of Hamilton had issued a temporary restraining order, thus halting Governor Steve Bullock’s ban on flavored vaporizers announced earlier that month. The restraining order was issued because it was seen to be a possible infringement of personal rights and illegal under state law. (source)

December 13, 2019

The DPHHS Announced its notice of intent to begin enforcing Emergency Rules that temporarily restrict the sale of flavored e-cigarette products in Montana. DPHHS is proceeding with enforcement of the rules, citing that the Temporary Restraining Order preventing enforcement expired by operation of law in October.

Since the Emergency Rules were first announced, DPHHS has confirmed five additional cases of E-cigarette or Vaping Product Use Associated Lung Injury (EVALI) in Montana. (source) (notice)

December 18, 2019

The DPHHS will begin enforcement of the Emergency Rules on Wednesday at 1:00 pm. 

The restrictions include the sale of all flavored e-cigarette products, including flavored nicotine, THC, and CBD e-cigarette products, in-store and online. The rules do not require retailers to destroy their existing inventory. (source) (notice)

Do you have news on this? Let us know!

February 19, 2020

Planned end of Temporary Ban (source) (source)


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Tresha Sanders

Specializations: Branding Digital Marketing Strategies Web development Tresha has spent years in startup and small business environments under roles spanning administrative support, graphic design, web management, marketing, and technology. She began exploring her design skills as a librarian in Sidney, Montana. She attended the University of Montana and received a degree in Computer Science. While attending UM, Tresha worked at Blackstone LaunchPad, an organization that assists students and alumni with their entrepreneurial pursuits. She also spent time as the Project Manager for a software development team developing an online writing tool for a Montana entrepreneur. Working with startups and as part of a core team in startups for years has given her a full array of skills she can bring to any new project she takes on. She has assisted in the development of multiple strategies for brands including carbon dioxide reclamation equipment for breweries, hemp bioplastic products, and even an adult card game.

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