HAMILTON — A temporary ban on the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes due to take effect this week in Montana has been blocked for now by a judge.
Ravalli County District Judge Jennifer Lint signed a temporary restraining order Oct. 18 that prohibits Gov. Steve Bullock and state health officials from enforcing emergency rules on flavored vaping products. They were set to take effect Tuesday.
Lint was acting in response to a lawsuit filed Thursday by three vape shops and an industry group. They claim the 120-day ban is an overly restrictive reaction to a national outbreak of vaping-related illnesses and deaths they say is caused by illegal black-market products.
Bullock’s press secretary, Erin Loranger, told the Ravalli Republic that officials are reviewing the judge’s ruling.
The lawsuit was brought by the Montana Smoke Free Association, Freedom Vapes, Liberty Smoke and uBlaze Vapor said the ban could force more than 20 Montana businesses to close.
The business owners said the pulmonary illnesses could be the result of the “illicit addition” of THC or marijuana products into legal vaping products. 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.
The ban would not only harm the businesses, but also people who use e-cigarettes to quit tobacco products, the lawsuit said.
In an affidavit filed in the lawsuit, Freedom Vapes owner Ron Marshall said that flavored vape juices comprise 95% of the products sold in his three stores and his business would not be able to survive without them.
On Friday, he said that the lawsuit was about freedom and liberty.
“If the governor can take away those liberties with a swipe of a pen, then what’s next? If it’s us today, who will it be tomorrow?” he said.
Lint scheduled an Oct. 30 hearing to consider arguments about the future of the temporary ban.
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