Board of Health moves to restrict vape sales

Chris Kasperek, owner of Ace Vapor on Union St. in Westfield. (Photo by Peter Currier)

WESTFIELD- The Board of Health has made a motion to impose greater restrictions on the sale of vaping products in the city including placing a ban on certain stores being allowed to sell vaping products, but they stopped short of actually voting on it. 

The board made several votes Thursday evening to address vaping in Westfield. They voted to place a moratorium on allowing new tobacco licenses in the city and to draft a letter of support for a bill in the Massachusetts legislature that would limit or ban vape sales. A motion was made and seconded that would place a ban on vapes from being sold in convenience stores and gas stations, but the board chose to wait until they could draft the regulation to vote on it next meeting. 

The votes are not final, and they still need to go through the city’s legislative process, including a public hearing to give the business owners a chance to have their say. The board will also need to draft the wording of the regulation before the next meeting in October, when a vote may take place. 

Between the last Board of Health meeting and this one, the federal government and the Trump Administration announced intentions to begin the process of banning flavored vapes due to what is perceived as an epidemic of vaping related lung illnesses. 

Cases across the country have popped up of serious lung illnesses that have been associated with vaping, but some local shop owners said that the cause is being seriously misrepresented as being from their products.

Joe Rouse, Westfield Director of Public Health

Chris Kasperek, owner of Ace Vapor on Union Street, said that he thinks the cause of the outbreak is illicit THC oil cartridges. While safer THC cartridges, otherwise called dab pens, are sold in legal marijuana dispensaries, cheaper illegal alternatives have been popping up as well.

“The cause of that is illegal, black market marijuana cartridges that contain vitamin E,” said Kasperek. “When it’s heated and vaporized it basically becomes an acid. But all the major news outlets are promoting it as regular e-cigarette vaping and not the illegal marijuana cartridge vaping.”

Kasperek added that a total ban of his flavored vaping products would put some of his customers at risk of turning back to cigarettes, saying that vape products have been a way for some to quit smoking in the first place. 

The Board of Health acknowledged that the black market cartridges may be part of the problem, but part of their reasoning for wanting a ban is to keep otherwise legal vaping products out of the hands of children.

Board Member Dr. Teresa Mitchell specifically called out Juul, a well-known company of vapes that is often associated with its rather high nicotine content. Mitchell said that the company has been blatantly marketing their products to underaged children.

“That’s been stopped, but that has been happening with the flavored Juuls.” said Mitchell, “It’s not just the flavored candy stuff, mint is very common with children.”

City Councilor Brent B. Bean II said that he had requested the Board of Health take a look at these regulations. He voiced his support for the way they voted following the meeting.

“It sounds like they took a huge step in the right direction.” said Bean, adding that he things the city, state, and federal government have been way ahead of themselves when it comes to regulating these products. 

Bean noted that he believes the specialty vape shops need to be more heavily regulated as well. The Board of Health stopped short of a citywide ban on flavored vaping products, but several members indicated that they would support such a measure. 

Seven municipalities in the state have already enacted such a ban. Public Health Director Joseph Rouse said that those communities are currently being brought to court for that reason.

The Board of Health meeting in October will likely be where the kinks of the regulations get worked out, and a legal review of the regulations must take place. 

“My opinion is that it shouldn’t be available in the city at all.” said Rouse. “But I also understand that there are other concerns that are reasonable, and certainly outside of our purview as a public health agency.”

Last week, two brothers in Wisconsin were reportedly arrested for running a large illicit THC cartridge operation that is said to have been a large source of the lung illnesses.

To Top