As of Sept. 29, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the national total of vaping-related lung illnesses has risen to 805. Utah has reported more than 70 cases, the highest number per capita.
It is widely believed the vaping-related illnesses sweeping the country are mostly caused by the use of black-market THC products. To combat Utah’s high number of vaping-related lung illnesses, the Utah Department of Health issued a statement on Tuesday enacting an emergency rule when it comes to tobacco retailers.
The first part of the rule, which goes into effect on Oct. 7, requires all stores that sell tobacco products to post signage advertising the dangers of vaping illegal, unregulated THC products. Ryan Bartlett, who works for the department’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Program, said one of the only options to try to gain control of the problem is through marketing.
“Unlike other outbreaks, so for example when there’s a food poisoning outbreak, we can’t just recall the spinach or lettuce or whatever might be causing that, because in this case, the THC that’s being vaped is already illegal,” Bartlett said.
The second part of the emergency rule restricts the sale of flavored e-liquids and products to specialty tobacco business who get 35% or more of their revenue from tobacco products. While some argue there’s no link between legal, flavored e-juices and the outbreak of illnesses, Bartlett said: "There’s a strong correlation between those who are vaping THC and the number of those people vaping THC who got started with flavored products."
"That correlation is higher the younger the people are when they began vaping," he added. "We’re hoping that by restricting flavors we’ll significantly cut down on the number of youth who are getting started on vaping in the first place, and in doing so, the number who would eventually move on to vaping THC products.”
Savannah Allred, who manages The Mystic Sphynx in Logan, said there is a chance business would close if the new rule was made permanent.
“It would be a hard thing to make up for," Allred said. "We’re a general tobacco retailer, so less than 35% of our sales come from those items. However, 35% of your sales is hard to make up for.”
While the emergency rule is only slated to remain in place for 120 days, Utah lawmakers re-introduced bi-partisan legislation to make the restrictions permanent on Oct. 3.