US Massachusetts officials to defend toughest-in-nation vaping ban in federal court
Vape brand Juul is reportedly at the center of a criminal probe
E-cigarette maker Juul is in trouble again. According to The Wall Street Journal, people familiar with the matter say that the company is the subject of a criminal investigation by federal prosecutors in California. It's not yet been revealed what the focus of the investigation is, although sources say it's still in its early stages. This will be another unwelcome challenge for the quickly-growing company, which has come under fire for the ways its sleek vaporizers have found appeal with young people.
BOSTON (Reuters) - Massachusetts health officials on Friday are expected to defend their crackdown on sales of vaping products in a courtroom battle that will test the toughest measures yet in a rapidly developing response against e-cigarettes and their potential link to a lung disease.
U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani in Boston has set a quick schedule to consider whether to block Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker's administration from enforcing a four-month ban on the sale of vaping products.
Baker's move came as federal officials on Thursday reported that 18 people have died from a mysterious vaping-linked illness that has sickened more than 1,000 in the United States.
Store owner files lawsuit fighting vaping, e-cig ban
The state is facing its first legal challenge to the governor's vaping ban, which he announced earlier this week. Gov. Charlie Baker declared a public health emergency on Tuesday, banning the sale of all vaping products for four months. Behram Agha, the owner of Vapor Zone at the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers, is asking a judge for a preliminary injunction lifting the ban. Agha claims he was denied due process and that the ban has a crippling effect on small businesses. Agha, who also owns shops in Ipswich, Saugus and Norton, said he has laid off 11 employees and can’t pay his bills if ban persists.
Trade group Vapor Technology Association (VTA) is challenging Baker's Sept. 24 ban in a lawsuit that was filed on Tuesday.
VTA, which sued along with the operators of several vape shops in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire, said the order amounts to an unconstitutional prohibition on retail and online advertising of their legal products.
The group's lawyers, including Joseph Terry of Williams & Connolly, argued the order not only violated the plaintiffs' free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution, but also the Commerce Clause's prohibition on state laws that unduly restrict interstate commerce.
Baker announced the ban on sales of e-cigarettes and vaping supplies, both those used for nicotine and THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, which is legal in the state, in response to the nationwide surge in a sometimes deadly lung disease linked to vaping.
Police Shut Down Illegal Marijuana Vaping Operating In San Gabriel Valley
Police shut down an illegal marijuana vaping operation in the San Gabriel Valley Thursday after executing a search warrant at a vacant office building.The bust happened at about 4:37 p.m. after police conducting a warrant search for suspected illegal marijuana vape pen sales and found large jars of butane honey oil — concentrated cannabis oil — at an office building in the 9600 block of Telstar Avenue.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has linked vaping to 18 deaths and 1,080 confirmed and probable cases nationally in mostly otherwise healthy people who contracted the mysterious respiratory illness. It has said most patients affected reported using products containing THC.
More than two-thirds of patients are male. The median age of cases is 23 years, with about 62% of patients aged 18-34, according to the CDC.
The VTA says Baker's ban, if left standing, will irreparably destroy Massachusetts' $331 million nicotine vapor products industry and the livelihoods of the nearly 2,500 workers it employs.
The lawsuit is one of a number filed nationwide by vape shops and the VTA challenging restrictions announced by various states in response to the outbreak of vaping-related illnesses.
Governors in Michigan, New York and Rhode Island have all restricted sales of flavored e-cigarette products in recent weeks. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on Tuesday called on state lawmakers to pass a ban on most flavored e-cigarettes.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Writing by Tim McLaughlin in Boston; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Berkrot)
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