PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WJAR) — Gov. Gina Raimondo on Wednesday signed an executive order to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes in Rhode Island.
She directed the state Department of Health to create the necessary regulations. Until those regulations are put in place, favorings will remain available in stores.
"I hear from parents and teachers and coaches that the use of flavored e-cigarettes among teenagers and middle school students is alarming and rising and scary," Raimondo said.
Raimondo called vaping a public health crisis, and she said flavorings are being marketed to children.
"I have come to the conclusion that this is a public health crisis for our children. If you look at the way these flavored products are marketed. It’s not right. I mean, look at this. It looks like a cereal box. What adult do you know who drinks strawberry milk" asked the governor at her order signing.
Raimondo said she was not following Gov. Charlie Baker's move in Massachusetts, where he banned the sale of all vaping products for four months.
"I'm not taking the action similar to Governor Baker, which is outlawing all vaping and all nicotine products. So, as to the example you just said, you could still vape," said Raimondo.
Vapers and owners of stores that serve them, object to the ban. They said nearly all former smokers choose the flavored products.
Mike Runshe, of Giant Vapes in East Providence, said a flavor ban will hurt people.
"Vapor use is up, and cigarette use is down because of it. We’re talking about a possible public health crisis here. A lot of these people are going to switch back to smoking."
Runshe said the ban would kill his business.
"We've got dozens of vapor shops in this state that are so committed to helping smokers transition to a product that we know is safer. Gina's going to put them all out of business," he told NBC 10 News.
Raimondo was joined at a short State House briefing by the state health director, Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott.
Alexander-Scott said the regulations could be put in place by early next week. The emergency ban would be effective for 120 days, with the option to extend it 60 days.
Woosocket-based CVS Health released a statement Wednesday applauding Raimondo for signing the executive order, saying in part, "This important action will reduce the number of youths in the state who are exposed to tobacco and other harmful products, which can reduce the prevalence of tobacco-related diseases and make a significant impact on the health of our next generation."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said more than 500 confirmed and probable cases of lung illnesses and nine deaths nationwide have been attributed to vaping. The CDC has not identified a common product or ingredient responsible for the illnesses.
Raimondo is putting together a Vaping Advisory Group to consider what other measures the state might take to address the vaping crisis.